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Assistant principal accused in homecoming court vote fraud

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — An assistant principal at an elementary school is accused of accessing the school district’s internal system to cast fraudulent votes for her daughter who was elected homecoming queen at her high school, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.

On Monday, agents arrested Laura Rose Carroll, 50, and her 17-year-old daughter on multiple charges stemming from the October homecoming vote at Tate High School in Pensacola.

The investigation began in November when the Escambia County School District reported unauthorized access into hundreds of student accounts, according to a news release from the agency.

Investigators found that in October, hundreds of votes for the school’s homecoming court were flagged as fraudulent, the news release said. There were 117 votes from the same IP address within a short period of time, the investigation found.

That’s when investigators found evidence of unauthorized access to the system linked to Carroll’s cellphone and computers at her home. The were 246 votes cast for homecoming court from those devices. Carroll is an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School in Pensacola.

Multiple Tate students told investigators the daughter described using her mother’s system access, or of watching her mother access records, for years, the report said. Investigators learned that since August 2019, Carroll’s account accessed 372 high school records and 339 of those were Tate students.

Investigators said Carroll had district level access of the school board’s program.

System users are required to change their password every 45 days, and Carroll’s annual training for the “Staff Responsible Use of Guidelines for Technology” was up to date, the agency said.

Carroll was booked into the Escambia County Jail and bond was set at $8,500, the agency said. It was not immediately known whether Carroll and her daughter are represented by a lawyer.

Her daughter was taken into custody and transferred to the Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center. The case has been turned over to the state attorney’s office in Escambia County.

Escambia County School District Superintendent Tim Smith told the News Journal that Carroll has been suspended from her job. He declined further comment.

Her daughter has been expelled from Tate High School, agents said.

Each are charged with offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices; unlawful use of a two-way communications device; criminal use of personally identifiable information and conspiracy to commit those offenses.

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