HISD mothers want protection against online predators while their kids learn virtually

Thursday, September 17, 2020
HISD parents concerned about child's privacy on Teams
An HISD parents explains why she is concerned about her child's privacy on Teams.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Some Houston parents want better protection for their children after worrying their kids could meet online predators as they learn virtually.

When Roman Pena saw the influx of messages coming to her son on his virtual learning platform, she said, "it made me feel scared."

She said she saw messages like, "Can you tell me your gender? Boy or girl?," pop up on her son's screen.

The photo on the account that was sending those messages was a stock photo of singer Lana Del Rey.

Pena said her first thoughts were that a possible adult stranger was somehow in the Teams software used by Houston ISD and was questioning her 6th grade son.

"I've been raped and molested at the age of six, so everything just comes to mind," Pena said. "As a parent, you're cautious."

Eleven-year-old Xavier Pena was in the middle of assignments when the messages started coming in.

"I felt attacked when they called me gay," he said.

Meanwhile, Rosa Gonzales also complained of suspicious messages and voicemails being sent to her first grade son.

"One of them was very disturbing because it sounded like a man whispering," said Gonzales.

She, too, feared the worst.

"It's very scary because I'm home with them, but imagine if I was not. My son is a first grader. He's not going to know, and someone could access him immediately," said Gonzales.

When ABC13 asked HISD about these incidents, the district said in a statement that they are aware of the reports of inappropriate communication on Teams and "are conducting a thorough investigation to find parties responsible for the messages."

The district also said they are taking steps to disable certain functions on the platform to prevent further instances of disruptive and inappropriate messages to students.