PENSACOLA, Fla. – An assistant principal at a Florida elementary school and her teenage daughter have been accused of using the mother’s privileged access to the school district’s internal system to cast fraudulent votes in favor of the daughter winning homecoming queen at her high school.
Laura Rose Carroll, 50, of Pensacola, and her 17-year-old daughter were arrested Monday, according to a news release from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The teen was being held at Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center, authorities said.
Final determination of whether she will be tried as an adult will rest with prosecutors. A report released in 2014 by Human Rights Watch found Florida transferred more children out of the juvenile system and into adult court than any other state.
FDLE agents learned that Carroll and her daughter used FOCUS, the district’s student information system, to cast fraudulent votes for her daughter to win homecoming queen at Tate High School, spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger told the Pensacola News Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network.
The mother is also accused of allowing her daughter to use her access to FOCUS to access hundreds of students’ personal files, including their test scores.
Nine students and one teacher provided written statements to authorities that detailed how the daughter had spoken about accessing her mother’s FOCUS account for almost four years, according to the arrest warrant.
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FDLE special agents launched an investigation after the school district in October 2020 flagged hundreds of votes for Tate High School’s homecoming court as fraudulent.
Agents discovered that 117 of the fraudulent votes originated from the same IP address within short period of time, and they tied the IP address to Carroll and her daughter’s computer usage.
Agents discovered Carroll had “district level access” to the school board’s FOCUS program, according to the release.
Both Carroll and her daughter were charged with three third-degree felonies: committing offenses against users of computers and electronic devices, unlawful use of a two-way communications device and criminal use of personally identifiable information. They were also charged with conspiracy to commit the offenses, a first-degree misdemeanor.
Escambia County School District Superintendent Tim Smith told the Pensacola News Journal on Monday that Carroll has been suspended from her job at Bellview Elementary School. He declined to comment further on the matter.
The daughter has been expelled from Tate High School, according to the FDLE. She was taken into custody and held at Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center, authorities said.
Contributing: Jay Cannon, USA TODAY
Follow reporter Colin Warren-Hicks on Twitter: @CWarrenHicks
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