A Yarmouth School Committee meeting was interrupted Thursday night by hackers who wrote a racial epithet across the screen and began playing an obscene video before school officials were able to shut down the meeting.

In a letter to the school community Friday morning, Superintendent Andrew Dolloff said the incident was witnessed by several dozen community members who were watching a school committee presentation.

“Although this repulsive activity was witnessed by just the 50 or so participants at the meeting, it is important that we not ignore the impact that hateful actions such as this have on our community. Racial slurs and degrading images have no place in Yarmouth, in Maine, or anywhere else. I know the vast majority in this community stand with me – and with all of our neighbors – in denouncing acts of hatred, ignorance, and bias such as we witnessed last night,” Dolloff wrote.

Dolloff said the “disgusting attempt to disrupt our work was only momentary” and the meeting was shut down. It was restarted soon after and work continued without further disruption.

The school department is working with law enforcement to identify and prosecute the people involved, Dolloff said.

Police Chief Daniel Gallant said he was notified late Thursday night of the incident and spoke with school officials multiple times Friday morning. This was the first time a Yarmouth meeting had been interrupted in this way, but Gallant said he has been in contact with law enforcement partners who have investigated similar incidents in Cumberland County.

The police are also working directly with the remote access company to gather information as part of the investigation, Gallant said.

“I’m confident that the school is doing all they can to help us with the investigation as well as taking the steps to minimize the risk of it happening again,” he said. “For everybody involved, it was disturbing and disheartening that it occurred. Hopefully we’ll be able to identify the perpetrators and move forward.”

The Thursday night incident is the second involving racist language in Yarmouth in recent months. In November, three teens were issued summonses for criminal mischief after they allegedly spray-painted a racial slur and other graffiti on the road that connects Littlejohn and Cousins islands. The teens, who were not identified because of their ages, were not from Yarmouth, according to police.

Last spring after Maine towns and cities moved municipal meetings online because of the pandemic, several meetings were interrupted by people who “Zoom-bombed” the meetings with lewd images and comments. In Falmouth, a March town council meeting was interrupted by a person who displayed “lewd behavior.” During an April 1 council meeting in Bath, a topless woman appeared on the screen.

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