Florida school principal hacked into student accounts to cast homecoming votes, FDLE says

Mother, 17-year-old daughter both face charges

A school principal and her teenage daughter both hacked into student accounts in order to cast votes for homecoming court at the girl’s school, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
A school principal and her teenage daughter both hacked into student accounts in order to cast votes for homecoming court at the girl’s school, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. (WKMG)

ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – A school principal and her teenage daughter both hacked into student accounts in order to cast votes for homecoming court at the girl’s school, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Records show the investigation began in November 2020 when the Escambia County School District realized hundreds of student accounts had been accessed without permission during Tate High School’s homecoming court voting period the month prior.

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Agents said they determined that 117 votes came from the same IP address. Arrest records provided by the agency did not say who the votes were for or whether that student won.

Laura Carroll, an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School, and her 17-year-old daughter, who attended Tate High School, were identified as suspects.

According to the affidavit, Carroll had district-level access to the Focus program, a student information system in which grades, medical history, test scores, schedules, disciplinary action and other information can be accessed.

Records show the district used a third-party vendor called Election Runner to allow students to vote for homecoming king and queen from Oct. 28-30, 2020 and that vendor flagged 117 votes as being fraudulent.

A search was conducted and found that many of the false votes came from Focus accounts that Carroll had accessed in the month prior to the voting, according to the report. Agents said further digging determined that Carroll accessed 212 student Focus accounts during October 2020.

All in all, 246 votes were cast from Carroll’s cellphone and a computer associated with her home address, FDLE said.

Students who were interviewed as part of the investigation said Carroll’s daughter bragged about using her mother’s account to cast homecoming votes and had mentioned using it on multiple other occasions to look up information about her peers, records show.

“She looks up all of our group of friends grades and makes comments about how she can find out our test scores all the time,” one student told investigators.

Another student said the teen openly shared information she gathered from the Focus system.

“She did not make it seem like logging in was a big deal and was very comfortable with doing so,” the report read.

The girl was expelled from Tate High School as a result of the incident.

Agents said that since August 2019, Carroll has accessed 372 high school records, 339 of which were for Tate High School students.

Carroll and her daughter were both arrested Monday on charges of 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 these offenses.


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