By JON HAWORTH, ABC News
(CANTONMENT, Fla.) — An assistant principal and her daughter have been arrested after authorities say they were responsible for fraudulently casting hundreds of votes for the high school’s Homecoming Court.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the investigation into Laura Rose Carroll, 50, and her 17-year-old daughter, who was announced as Tate High School’s Homecoming queen last October, began when the Escambia County School District in Florida contacted the FDLE to report unauthorized access into hundreds of student accounts after discovering that 117 votes for Tate High School’s Homecoming Court were allegedly originating from the same IP address in a very short period of time.
“The investigation found that Carroll, an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School, and her daughter, a student at Tate High School, had accessed student FOCUS accounts,” the FDLE said in a statement.
Court documents said that “FOCUS allows students, teachers and parents to log into their account to view grades, medical history, test scores, attendance, disciplinary actions, personal information, student picture and student identification number.”
The FDLE said that their agents were able to uncover evidence of unauthorized access to the FOCUS website linked to Carroll’s cell phone, to computers in Carroll and her daughter’s home, and to a total of 246 votes cast for the Homecoming Court — which Carroll’s daughter eventually won.
Witness statements in the court documents allege that Carroll’s daughter had actually bragged about accessing individual student’s private information for several years.
“I have known that [Carroll’s daughter] logs into her mom’s school account in order to access grades and test scores since freshman year when we became friends,” said one witness. “She looks up our group of friends grades and makes comments about how she can find out our test scores all the time.”
A second witness included in the court document said, “I recall times when [Carroll’s daughter] logged onto her mom’s focus account and openly shared information, grades, schedules, etc. with others. She did not seem like logging in was a big deal and was very comfortable doing so.”
The investigation also found that Carroll’s FOCUS account had accessed a total of 372 high school records since August 2019, with 339 of those being records of Tate High School students.
“The district isn’t able to divulge any additional information outside of what FDLE shared because of the nature of the investigation,” Escambia County School District Superintendent Dr. Timothy Smith told ABC News, adding that Carroll is currently suspended from her job.
“Carroll was arrested today (March 15) and booked into the Escambia County Jail, with a bond set at $8500. Her daughter was taken into custody and transferred to the Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center,” the FDLE said in a statement.
Carroll and he daughter now face third degree felony counts of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, and electronic devices, unlawful use of a two-way communications device, and criminal use of personally identifiable information. They will also face a first degree misdemeanor count of conspiracy to commit these offenses.
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