Some disturbing news showed up in inboxes today for parents of Rochester Public Schools students, including mine.  Unfortunately, quite a few students in Rochester, Minnesota received inappropriate e-mails Thursday.  In case you didn't have an opportunity to see the e-mails your kids received, below are a few of the e-mails.

Rochester schools distance learning January 2022
Rochester Public Schools
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Students in Rochester, Minnesota Receive Multiple Inappropriate E-mails

I was in the middle of prepping my radio show on Y-105FM today when I got the e-mail from Rochester Public Schools stating the following:

Inappropriate Email Situation

Dear RPS parents and caregivers,

RPS leadership was made aware of an inappropriate email circulating to RPS students from an unknown user. At this time, the emails have not contained any visually offensive items such as pictures or videos, but have included statements or user names that are sexual in nature.

We are working with our IT department to block these emails from being received. We will update you once there is a resolution.

We encourage you to speak to your student(s) and ask them that if they receive this email, to delete it and block the sender.

Thank you,
Rochester Public Schools

Canva/JW
Canva/JW
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I immediately pulled out my phone and texted my kids to see if they received any of these "inappropriate e-mails".  One of the responses was, "Which one. There was like 60.".  My other child thought that he got over 50.

If you are curious what some of the e-mails looked like that your child may or may not have received, I have some of those below for you.  I was asked by my company not to show the full e-mail addresses or links.  Some of the e-mail address names are what is inappropriate so those have been blacked out as well.

Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams
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Jessica williams
Jessica williams
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There were also quite a few photos that were sent.  I saw a few and to be honest, it was Scooby Do dressed up in wigs and a Minion character, which I had no problem with.  There were other photos though and one that was insensitive was of the Twin Towers along with a photo of Queen Elizabeth II and the indicated that she was the reason for their fall.

I reached out to Rochester Public Schools because as I looked through the e-mails my kids received, I realize there were links in many of those.  I'm not sure how your company handles your training for spam and phishing but it is a big deal where I work and all I could think of was, I really hope my kids didn't click on those.  I wasn't sure if the "link to sign the petition" was legit so I asked RPS if families need to be concerned about potential viruses as well as the following questions:

  •  Were all student e-mails impacted?
  • My own kids received 30 to 50+ e-mails today. Did most of the student population receive more than one e-mail that was inappropriate?
  • There is a link included in many of the e-mails and some are telling students to sign a petition at the link "or else", or the link is just included several times. If this link was clicked on by students, do families need to be concerned about viruses on the computer?
  • If parents/guardians/students are concerned or have questions regarding this issue, who should they contact?
  • I understand from the e-mail that IT is working on resolving the issue. What is the anticipated timeline?
  • What steps are being taken to ensure this does not happen again?
  • Is there a statement that RPS would like to include that was not on the e-mail sent to parents/guardians?

Below is the statement from Rochester Public Schools that I received to my questions, which is the same e-mail sent out to families around 3:30 pm.

RPS Statement on Inappropriate Email Situation

At Rochester Public Schools, student safety and well-being are our top priorities.

Today, RPS was made aware of inappropriate emails that were circulated to school-issued email addresses for RPS students by an unknown sender(s). The offensive emails initially included only written statements or user names that were sexual in nature. We have since learned that some students have received emails that also include inappropriate images.

We believe this incident occurred because the email addresses of RPS students were made visible to all RPS users of a new software application called Speak Up, which is owned and operated by a third-party organization under contract with RPS. Speak Up is a new tool we have implemented this school year to provide a way for students to reach out with concerns about the well-being of fellow students or school safety.

It appears (and we are working to confirm) that through the Speak Up platform, the school email addresses of all RPS students were inadvertently visible to anyone who had access to Speak Up for a period of time. The person or persons who sent these offensive messages and images appear to have used those email addresses to send the messages that our students received earlier today. We have no indication that RPS security systems have been hacked or otherwise breached or that student information other than school email addresses has been disclosed to any unauthorized person or persons.

Our IT department is working to stop these emails from being circulated. We have blocked emails coming from the domain used by the sender(s) and are working fervently to purge emails from student accounts as they are received.

At this time, we have made the decision to shut down student access to email to prevent further inappropriate messages from being sent or received.

We are truly sorry for this incident and are working with the vendor to ensure this will never happen again.

Canva/JW
Canva/JW
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RPS stated in the last e-mail that they "shut down student access to email to prevent further inappropriate messages from being sent or received".  However, my kids were able to access their e-mail from their phones when they got home and showed me the e-mails in their inbox.  In fact, they forwarded them to me.

Parents, if you are curious about the e-mails your kids saw, maybe check their phones if they have them.  And maybe check the sent folder too.

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