For the past two days, Miami-Dade County Public Schools has struggled to provide virtual learning to the district's 275,000 students, who were supposed to begin classes on Monday.
But the problem apparently went far beyond the kind of run-of-the-mill incompetence that can be expected from a county bureaucracy. Yesterday, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced that the district had fallen victim to a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) cyberattack that's now being investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service.
"There was a malicious attempt — malicious, well-orchestrated, complex attempt — at derailing, destroying the connection, which is essential for our students and teachers," Carvalho stated in a press release.
As the tech experts worked to get the district's systems up and running, classrooms had mixed success connecting through a so-called backdoor solution. Yesterday, dozens of fed-up students and teachers shared their frustration on social media, posting photos of the error messages that continually popped up from My Online School, the virtual learning platform the district secured in a $15 million no-bid contract with the for-profit education company K12.
The error page, which features a small dog in banana-print pajamas, displayed the message: "Oh Bananas! Too many people are online right now. Please try again."
The scruffy dog became an unwitting symbol of the district's server problem, her little tongue taunting those who tried to join their classmates online.
"Stupid ass banana dog," one student tweeted.
"everybody in miami hates this damn dog," another griped.
"Banana Dog is my new nemesis!" a parent declared.
Anyone else tired of seeing the K12 Banana Dog? Cute the first 4 or 5 times...but my kids have gotten kicked off the platform at least a dozen times each - even with the workaround. I have strong feelings about you, Banana Dog! @MiamiSup @MDCPS @Colleen_Wright @MiamiHerald pic.twitter.com/5sYTq9aSxm— Tere FiguerasNegrete (@TereNegrete) September 1, 2020
that little k12 dog really starting to piss me off— ?$? (@Ashleynavarroo) September 1, 2020
If I ever meet this dog in person all hell will break loose pic.twitter.com/GzhMIMriIX— noodle (@heise_jane) September 1, 2020
guys. we get it. there’s a dog in the waiting screen of k12. we hear you.— hannuh (@threatenme) September 1, 2020
On TikTok, another student immortalized Banana Dog in sing-song.
"Sing with me, sing with me, Miami-Dade: You're a piece of shit, you're good for nothing. How bad is this thing? I'm going to my bed," he sang in Spanish.
After locating the picture on the stock-photo website Unsplash, New Times was able to track down the photographer who created the cursed image. Karsten Winegeart, who lives in Austin, said he had no idea his photo was being used by K12 until New Times informed him.
"That's news for me," he said in a brief phone interview.
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The dog in the photo is Winegeart's six-year-old Shih Tzu/Yorkie mix, Bella. Winegeart said he started uploading his photos to Unsplash about a month ago after his mentor told him about the site. Since that time, he said, tons of strangers who've used his photos have tagged him on Instagram.
"It's pretty crazy to see," he confided. "To have random people using my photos is kind of mind-blowing."
After Winegeart hung up with New Times, his wife created a Twitter account, @FamousBananaDog, for Bella to bask in the glow of her newfound fame.
The bio: "I'm the #BananaDog you all love to H8."