This story was updated at 10:40 a.m. Feb. 24, 2021, to include more information about the incident and at 11:50 a.m. to include more details and comments.
A teaching assistant who was seen masturbating during a video link with middle school students said he was put on administrative leave.
Marc Schack said in an interview on Wednesday morning that he did not know he had been captured on video until a Bethesda Beat reporter asked him about it.
“I thought I was logged out when class was over,” he said. “I had no clue that Zoom was still on. Why would I do that? That’s my job. My career. I had no clue that Zoom was on. I mean, that’s just crazy behavior.”
Schack has been working as a paraeducator with special education students at Shady Grove Middle School in Gaithersburg.
The incident happened on Monday during a virtual video connection. A 13-second video shows Schack look at his screen, then stand up, take a few steps away and masturbate.
During that time, his name appears on the screen as the host of the virtual link. After several seconds, another name comes up on the screen as taking over as the host.
“It was just a mistake on my part,” Schack said, adding that he thought he had turned off his connection to the virtual call. “I’m only human. It was my bad.”
He said he has worked for MCPS for 21 years.
Schack said the school system called him on Monday to say he was being placed on administrative leave, telling him they had “misplaced his background check file.”
“Maybe they were looking to see if I had any criminal misbehavior or anything like that,” he said.
But the district didn’t mention the video to him and he was not aware of it until Wednesday.
“I’m not a pervert or anything like that, you know,” Schack said.
He said he never meant harm to his students. “You gotta believe me on that …,” he said. “I thought I was in the privacy of my own home. I had no clue.”
Schack confirmed to Bethesda Beat that he is a children’s performer who has a business called Pirate Magic.
School district officials have let the community know that something inappropriate happened, and it was recorded and shared, but have not been specific.
In a message to community members on Tuesday, Shady Grove Principal Alana Murray wrote that, during an eighth-grade class, an employee was “seen on screen in a breakout room engaged in inappropriate behavior.”
MCPS spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala told Bethesda Beat in a text message on Tuesday night — before Schack was interviewed and confirmed what happened — that the “behavior was sexual in nature.”
She said the employee was placed on paid administrative leave while the district investigates.
Onijala declined to comment further.
The incident was recorded and posted on social media, according to Murray’s message.
Police were notified and the incident is under investigation, the message said.
In the community message, Murray asked any students who recorded the incident and posted it on social media to delete it and “refrain from sharing with other students.”
Montgomery County police have “been made aware of a video by MCPS and we’re investigating,” Officer Rick Goodale, a spokesman for the department, said Wednesday morning.
He wouldn’t comment further about who was in the video because no one had been charged.