I am sure you heard about the Homecoming Scandal that happened in Pensacola last year. As I understood from the news stories I read, this case was akin to the Cheerleader murder from Texas. You know, an overzealous mother who murdered her daughter’s competition, thus securing her daughter’s place as a cheerleader. Minus the murder, this was the same scenario, at least as it was portrayed as by the local media. Laura Carroll, Vice-Principal of Bellview Elementary either through her own access to Escambia County School District internal server (FOCUS) or her daughter, Emily Grover, used her login, surreptitiously to cast votes for Tate Homecoming Queen in 2020. The mother & daughter were arrested March 15, 2021, for unlawful use of a two-way communication device, offenses against users of computer, computer systems, computer networks & electronic devices and conspiracy to commit these offenses. Emly was expelled, despite having no disciplinary record and being an exemplary student about to graduate in 6 weeks at the time of the arrest.
According to PNJ, Tuesday, March 16, 2021:
“In October 2020, the school district flagged hundreds of votes for Tate High School’s homecoming court as fraudulent. FDLE was contacted and special agents launched an investigation.
FDLE special agents discovered that 117 of the fraudulent votes originated from the same IP address within a short period of time and they tied that IP address to Carroll & Grover’s computer usage.
FDLE spokesperson Gretl Plessinger told the News Journal, agents learned that Carroll & Grover used FOCUS to cast the fraudulent votes to win homecoming queen at Tate High School….
Nine students and one teacher provided written statements to authorities that detailed how Grover had spoken about accessing her mother’s FOCUS account or had seen her access the county system for almost 4 years, according to the arrest warrant.”
This seems cut and dry, doesn’t it? Hardly. My immediate question was, with this access and purported “abuse” of info, was there no other compromised records, involving school grades, medical records, disciplinary records, student ID numbers etc? It seems to me that there are more serious violations that may actually warrant harsh punishment—not homecoming court votes. A teen who has this sort of info available would surely exploit it. Yet, that we don’t have in this case. The FOCUS site is chalked full of information that anyone with a password could exploit. That is what I would expect if someone was trying to abuse that particular website. While Carroll’s login was largely “view only” info, the voluminous privacy-protected info that potentially could have been weaponized was never compromised.
The FDLE investigator, Stephanie Cassidy, could not legitimize any of the evidence used in this case. That does not surprise me but the fact that anyone pursued criminal charges and ruined a young girl’s life with such flimsy evidence.
Here are a few excerpts from the deposition of Stephanie Cassidy:
The craziest thing though is the way Tate High handled it. Here is a clip from NorthEscambia.com: