Photos from the Tate High School Homecoming last October show the homecoming queen posing on the football field with a glamorous sparkling crown atop her blonde curls, a black sash draped over her sequined cream gown declaring her the winner.
On Monday, the 17-year-old Florida teenager was arrested, along with her mother, for hacking into the high school system and rigging the election to ensure she won the title, authorities said.
The mother, 50-year-old Laura Rose Carroll, is an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School in Pensacola and her job gave her access to the whole school district’s FOCUS student information system, authorities said. Her account allegedly accessed hundreds of high school records of Tate High School students, and 246 votes for the Tate High School Homecoming Court were placed from her cellphone and computers from the family’s home.
Media reports show photos of Carroll's daughter winning the Tate High School Homecoming Queen title on Oct. 31, 2020, and wearing the crown. The runners-up did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) said in an arrest affidavit that nine people told investigators Carroll’s daughter bragged about her ability to access confidential school records.
“I have known that [she] logs into her moms school account in order to access grades and test scores since freshman year when we became friends,” one student told FDLE, according to the affidavit. "She looks up all of our group of friends grades and makes comments about how she can find out our test scores all of the time.”
Another said they saw it when she was a sophomore. "I recall times that she 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 with doing so,” they told investigators.
The investigation began in November after the school alerted authorities that hundreds of votes in the homecoming court had been flagged as fraudulent. A total of 117 of them came from the same IP address in a short period of time. After an inquiry by the school, Carroll's daughter was expelled.
According to jail records, Carroll was booked into Escambia County Jail on Monday and released 30 minutes later on a $6,000 bond. Her daughter was transferred to the Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center.
Both now face four charges, including fraud and property crimes. Three of the charges are felonies.
Carroll's lawyer, Randall J. Etheridge, told BuzzFeed News: "They welcome the opportunity when the case is over to tell their side of the story."