Brian Cody Bray, 29, said he was “mortified” when a co-worker at the school informed him by phone on Sept. 29 while he was home on sick leave that the video had been posted on his faculty page on the website of Maumelle Charter High School in Maumelle, Ark.
“Pretty much immediately after that phone call I went to the bathroom and threw up,” Bray told the Washington Blade. “I was just in shock that oh my God, this is something that will impact my career, impact my life and what am I going to do?”
The school’s principal and the executive director of the school district summoned him to a meeting the following week, where he said he attempted to explain that someone hacked into his email account and apparently gained access to his user names and passwords for various accounts, including his account with the online file storage site known as Dropbox.
Among other things, the Dropbox folder contained “a video recording of an intimate encounter between myself and another informed, consenting adult male,” Bray wrote on a website he recently created to explain an incident that he calls a cyber hate crime.
According to screen shots of his Dropbox site, the hacker changed the name of the Dropbox folder in which the video file was stored from “Private” to “FagTeachBray,” a clear sign, Bray says, that the hacker had targeted him because he’s gay.
He said that although he didn’t discuss his sexual orientation with students it was widely known at the school that he is gay. Bray taught several math classes and physics.
The video was first posted on the school website on Monday, Sept. 28, according to a posting time stamp on the site, Bray said. On that same day, someone identifying himself as “Jonathan” began sending text messages to one of Bray’s students telling the student that his teacher Bray was a “fag” and that the student should look at the video.
Bray, who posted a screen shot of the text message exchanges between “Jonathan” and the student, said he believes that “Jonathan” is the hacker, whom Bray doesn’t believe is a student. The student who received the text messages reported that the sender had his own cell phone number blocked on his text messages.
According to Bray, he had the student’s phone number on his computer files along with the numbers of other students who he sometimes called about school-related activities. He believes the hacker obtained those numbers when he or she gained access to his personal files.
Bray said he was not surprised when school district executive director Rob McGill and school principal Kimberly Willis informed him at an Oct. 8 meeting that they had no alternative but to terminate him.
“Of course I had to be dismissed at the time because I had lost any kind of authority with my students there,” Bray said he was told. He initially didn’t disagree with that assessment, he told the Blade, noting that he wasn’t emotionally ready to return to the classroom and resume teaching.
But he said he now believes school officials acted unfairly by refusing to provide him with severance pay and by suggesting to the school community that he was at fault for what happened despite his explanation that the video was posted to the school website by a malicious hacker.
McGill and Willis didn’t immediately respond to calls from the Blade seeking comment.
School officials also filed an ethics complaint against him with the Arkansas Professional Licensure Standards Board, which has authority to revoke teachers’ licenses, on grounds that he had at least some responsibility for the posting of a pornographic video on the school’s website.
On Jan. 12, following what Bray said was a thorough investigation, including an examination of his Dropbox files and records, the board determined there was insufficient evidence that he violated the ethics code for Arkansas educators, Bray said he was informed by the board in a written notice.
Bray said that school officials initially told him they reported the incident to the Maumelle Police Department and possibly the Pulaski County’s Sheriff’s Office. He said he was told the FBI was also investigating the case. But he later learned when contacting the police that no official report had been filed by the school.
He has since filed his own police complaint, Bray told the Blade, but he isn’t sure any of the local law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are seriously investigating the case.
Debra Green, a spokesperson for the FBI Field Office in Little Rock, said, “It would be inappropriate for us to make a comment at this time,” on the Bray case. Officials with the Maumelle Police and Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office didn’t immediately respond to calls from the Blade seeking to determine if they are investigating the case and attempting to identify the hacker.
Arkansas doesn’t have a state hate crimes law, preventing the case from being prosecuted as a hate crime if a suspect is eventually identified and arrested. Under Arkansas’s criminal code, the type of computer hacking committed by the suspect against Bray is considered a felony offense.
Jason Marsden is executive director of the Denver-based Matthew Shepard Foundation, which advocates for adopting and strengthening state hate crime laws. He said nearly all state hate crime statutes, including D.C.’s, along with the federal Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, limit their coverage to violent hate crimes.
He is not aware of any such law that would treat a so-called cybercrime like the one committed against Bray as a hate crime, Marsden said.
“He’s had his life trashed by some bigot criminal,” Marsden said. “But we don’t have laws at the federal level or in the state of Arkansas that address those exact circumstances.”
Added Marsden: “He’s just in a position where nobody had contemplated this particular form of belittling, diminishing attack on someone when they drafted hate crimes laws.”
Bray said he remains unemployed as he continues to grapple with the emotional strain of the posting of the video on the school website and the derailing of his teaching career. He has created a GoFundMe site with the hope of raising funds to pay his basic living expenses until he finds work. The site includes a link to his new website, which provides a detailed account of how the unidentified suspect hacked into his Dropbox account and posted the sex video on the school website.
Among other things, Bray said he has become an activist for LGBT rights and for the passage of a hate crimes law in Arkansas.
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