Education

Randolph-area school district disables its own website following transphobic hack

Randolph Union High School on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The Orange Southwest Supervisory District’s website was hacked Saturday and inundated with “hate speech, symbols, and photographs targeting transgender individuals,” Superintendent Layne Millington wrote community members on Saturday. 

The incident prompted district leaders to disable its website and social media accounts, Millington wrote, and to refer the matter to local and federal law enforcement. “While the speech has been disgusting and disturbing, it has not been threatening,” he wrote. 

According to Millington, the hacking appears related to a recent incident involving the Randolph Union Middle/High School girls’ volleyball team. 

District officials have declined to elaborate, citing federal privacy laws. But in a separate email to the community Friday, Millington wrote, “There was an incident involving the girls’ volleyball team that is currently being investigated, that investigation is ongoing at this time.”

WCAX reported last week that the incident involved a transgender student on the team. The TV station’s story, which focused on a teammate critical of the transgender student, was picked up over the weekend by Fox News, the Daily Signal, the New York Post and others. (VTDigger is not linking to those stories because they include transphobic rhetoric and do not appear to present a full picture of what occurred.) 

In his Saturday email, Millington criticized the news media for trying to “make it look like the district refuses to comment for some nefarious reason when they know the law prevents us from doing so.” A result of officials’ inability to correct the record, he wrote, is that “folks present partial, false, or incorrect information.” 

“The consequences of such a system … are sadly clear, misinformed people moved to action who do things like vandalize our website with hate speech,” he wrote. 

District officials were scheduled to meet Sunday afternoon to discuss how best to communicate with community members while the website and social media accounts are disabled. “We will further assess with law enforcement what we learn over the next 24-hours and use it to create a response plan to ensure our students and schools continue to be safe and supportive,” Millington wrote. 

He told VTDigger on Sunday via email that the district had invested in an email communications system “that we will use to ensure families continue to receive all the communications and updates they normally would through the website and school social media accounts.”

The Randolph Union Middle/High School serves 381 students in the towns of Randolph, Braintree and Brookfield, according to 2022 enrollment data from the Vermont Agency of Education’s website.

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Auditi Guha

About Auditi

Auditi is Chittenden County editor at VTDigger. Originally from Calcutta, India, she graduated from Emerson College with an MA in journalism. She has worked as an editor and reporter for several newspapers, and in various beats. Most recently, she covered race and justice at Rewire.News, and higher education at the New Bedford Standard-Times. She previously worked at several Massachusetts newsrooms. She is a mentor for young reporters through the Report For America program, founded the Boston chapter of the South Asian Journalists Association, and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Email: aguha@vtdigger.org

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