Many teachers employed by the Peel District School Board turned on their computers Tuesday morning to find they were unable to access online grades, their union says — with some locked out of email and even virtual schooling — following a “cyber security incident” that has yet to be resolved.
A spokesperson for Peel Regional Police confirmed Thursday that the event is under investigation, although they declined to provide further details to the Star.
The incident, the board told staff in an email, “resulted in the encryption of certain PDSB files and systems,” and after it was discovered, the board “took immediate steps to isolate the incident,” the statement goes on to say.
Officials have also hired a cybersecurity firm and notified police to help with remediation and a forensic investigation.
The school board stresses classes are continuing as normal.
Gail Bannister-Clarke, president of Peel Elementary Teacher’s Local, a union that represents thousands of educators in the area, says the breach seemed to affect anything related to the school board’s website, and left teachers scrambling to find alternative ways of accessing online resources.
Bannister-Clarke said the school board, the second largest in the province, hasn’t been clear about the extent of the problem with teachers, which is putting an additional burden on a workforce already stretched to the brink not only by the pandemic, but by recent allegations of racism and dysfunction levelled at the board.
Speaking two days after the incident occurred, Bannister-Clarke said educators are now able to access virtual school, but remain locked out of grading systems with a week to go before report cards are due to go out.
Meanwhile, teachers still have questions about their privacy, and what exactly was taken, she said.
“Everything, from your social insurance number and personal data in terms of your home are part of the question,” she said.
“Has that been leaked?”
In an emailed statement Thursday, a spokesperson for the board said that “at this stage, there is no reason to believe that any personal or sensitive information was at risk,” but that anyone affected would be notified as soon as possible.
“We appreciate that these are already challenging times for educators and students, and are grateful to our teachers, parents, students and staff for their adaptability during this incident,” the statement says.
While the investigation continues, teachers face a looming deadline to get marks in, despite not being able to go online and enter them, Bannister-Clarke said.
“It’s not too challenging, I would say, for them to acknowledge the stress and time that’s been lost and just change the date.”
In an email sent to all staff Thursday afternoon, the board apologized for the inconvenience and said that officials are reviewing timelines for “various impending deadlines.”
This is just the latest challenge for employees of a board beset by struggles in recent months, Bannister-Clarke says.
The board was placed under provincial supervision in June, after Education Minister Stephen Lecce sent in a team of investigators to probe allegations of racism and dysfunction.
The reviewers heard about anti-Black and Islamophobic incidents in schools, and found that senior administrators and trustees knew of the issue, but failed to take action.
Bannister-Clarke says a turbulent year has made this latest setback that much harder.
“Our board has had many challenges. To begin with, we’re dealing with racial trauma that Black students and Black staff have experienced here in (the Peel School Board). We’re currently under ministry review, which means that our trustees don’t have any governance at this time.”
“It’s just a very challenging situation to be in.”
This content was originally published here.