Laura Rose Carroll, 50, of Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida, United States and her daughter Emily Rose Grover, 17, have been arrested. They were accused of using unauthorized access into hundreds of student accounts to cast fraudulent homecoming court votes.
While Carroll was an assistant principal in Bellview Elementary School in Pensacola, Grover was a student at J.M. Tate High School in Cantonment, Escambia County. The mother had district-level access to the school district’s student information system called FOCUS, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
Through FOCUS, teachers, students and parents can view grades, test scores, personal information, student picture, student identification number, attendance, medical history and disciplinary actions. The users are required to change their password every 45 days, the FDLE said.
In October 2020, 117 votes for Tate High School’s Homecoming Court voting came from the same internet protocol (IP) address within a short period of time so they were flagged as fraudulent. In November 2020, the Escambia County School District contacted the FDLE to report unauthorized access into hundreds of student accounts.
Investigators found out that Carroll and Grover had accessed student FOCUS accounts. In particular, unauthorized access to FOCUS was linked to the mother’s cell phone and computers associated with a house where she and her daughter live.
From these devices, a total of 246 votes cast for the Tate High School’s Homecoming Court. As a result, Grover was named the school’s 2020 homecoming queen.
Carroll’s annual training for the Staff Responsible Use of Guidelines for Technology was up to date, the FDLE stated. Since August 2019, her FOCUS account accessed 372 high school records, 339 of which were of Tate High School students.
Carroll was arrested on March 15, 2021, booked into Escambia County Jail in Pensacola at around 2:45 p.m. and released on a $6,000 bond at 3:15 p.m. She is currently suspended, Escambia County Schools superintendent Dr. Timothy Smith told WEAR-TV.
Grover was also arrested. She was transferred to the Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Pensacola.
The mother and daughter were each charged with one count 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, which are all third-degree felonies. Both are also charged with conspiracy to commit these offenses, a first-degree misdemeanor.