A middle school in South Windsor, Conn. has advised parents that someone was circulating a fictitious school newsletter evidently written by the artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT.
The phony newsletter described a fictitious conflict between students, and listed names and penalties they sustained, according to the school system.
Administrators were not taking questions this week, and police said they had received no complaint related to the incident.
“It has come to our attention that a fictitious newsletter was shared among some students and families that closely resembled the formatting of the TEMS monthly communication to families,” Principal Candice Irwin of the Timothy Edwards Middle School said in a letter to parents Feb. 27.
“This writing was generated using ChatGPT (open AI) and reported false information about a fabricated altercation that occurred between TEMS students.”
Irwin’s letter did not state whether the phony newsletter was distributed electronically or in print, how many people saw it or specifically what it said. Her notice also doesn’t say whether administrators believe the fake newsletter named real students in a way that could constitute bullying or harassment.
Police Sgt. Mark Cleverdon said Tuesday morning that police received no complaint from the schools administration about the matter.
“This fake newsletter included student names and information about student consequences,” Irwin wrote, but did not elaborate.
Irwin did not respond to a request Tuesday for more information.
A phone message for Superintendent Kate Carter on Tuesday morning was not returned until a half hour later, when her assistant said Carter would be out of the building for the day and unavailable to speak. Nobody was available to address the matter in her absence, according to her staff.
Messages for Mayor Liz Pendleton and for Amy Lambert, president of the school’s parent teacher organization, also were not returned. School board leaders said Tuesday that they weren’t familiar with the matter.
Irwin’s letter emphasized that the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student records.
“Communication from South Windsor public schools would never include information about student discipline records in any community communication,” she wrote.
She also gave no indication of why the school system suspected the use of ChatGPT, a highly controversial artificial intelligence chatbot that educators around the nation have become concerned about this winter.
ChatGPT has created alarm on college campuses, where professors report students have used it to write entire essays or term papers. In New York City and Los Angeles, public schools have blocked ChatGPT from being accessed by any school devices. The technology news website ZDNET reported in January that hacking communities have been experimenting with using ChatGPT to launch cyber attacks.
With school administrators not answering questions, it remains unclear how ChatGPT would have factored into the South Windsor incident.
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