Assistant Principal, Daughter Allegedly Hacked Student Accounts to Steal Homecoming Queen Vote
A Florida teen was crowned homecoming queen at her high school last fall after the girl and her mother, an assistant elementary school principal, conspired to rig the student vote through an in-house school computer system and give her the title, investigators allege.
Now the 17-year-old senior and her mom, Laura Rose Carroll, 50, an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School in Escambia County, have been arrested and face multiple criminal charges.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 117 votes flagged as fraudulent in the October 2020 election for Tate High School's Homecoming Court came from the same IP address within a short period of time.
FDLE investigators linked that address to Carroll's residence and cell phone, allegedly finding evidence of "unauthorized access" from there to the school district's FOCUS student information network, with 246 votes cast for the Homecoming Court.
"Multiple students reported that the daughter described using her mother's FOCUS account to cast votes," FDLE said in a news release.
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The school district brought FDLE into the investigation soon after the vote, alleging "unauthorized access into hundreds of student accounts."
Investigators further alleged the mother's FOCUS account was used as far back as August 2019 to access 372 high school records — 339 of which belonged to Tate High School students.
"I recall times that [the teen] logged onto her mom's FOCUS account and openly shared information, grades, schedules, etc., with others," one student told investigators, according to the arrest document, reports The Washington Post. "She did not seem like logging in was a big deal and was very comfortable with doing so."
In a written statement, another student told investigators: "She looks up all of our group of friends grades and makes comments about how she can find our test scores all the time."
Carroll has been suspended from her position as assistant principal, Escambia County School District Superintendent Tim Smith told the Pensacola News Journal. Her daughter has been expelled.
PEOPLE is not identifying the 17-year-old because she's a minor, and was not immediately able to locate Carroll. An attorney for the family was not listed in jail records.
FDLE says both mother and daughter were arrested Monday on one count each of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, and electronic devices, a third-degree felony; unlawful use of a two-way communications device, a third-degree felony; criminal use of personally identifiable information, a third-degree felony; and conspiracy to commit these offenses, which is a first-degree misdemeanor.
Carroll was booked Escambia County Jail and released after posting a $6,000 bond, according to jail records. Her daughter was arrested and taken to the Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center.
It's unclear if the daughter will be prosecuted as an adult, as the case had not yet been assigned to a prosecutor, a spokesperson with the State Attorney's Office for the First Judicial Circuit tells PEOPLE.