State Appeal Court Denies Mom’s Appeal In Tate Homecoming Queen Scandal Case

April 13, 2024

The Florida First District Court of Appeal has ruled that statements are admissible from a former assistant principal convicted for her part in wrongly helping her daughter win the Tate High School homecoming queen.

In September 2022, Laura Carroll pleaded no contest to one count of felony unlawful use of a two-way communications device, and adjudication was withheld by Judge Coleman Robinson. Carroll was sentenced to 18 months supervised probation. She was also ordered to pay costs or perform community service, and pay the cost of her probation supervision, according to court documents.

In her appeal, Carroll moved to suppress the statements she made to a school district investigator. She argued that her statements were coerced in violation of her right against self-incrimination because she feared adverse employment consequences if she did not cooperate with the investigator. The trial court denied the motion, and it was upheld by the appeals court.

Carroll’s daughter, Emily Rose Grover, was charged by FDLE with the same offenses. After her successful completion of a pretrial intervention program, the state dismissed the charges against the daughter.

In January 2022, Grover entered a pre-trial diversion program that resulted in the charges against her being dismissed in March 2022.

Case Background

According to the Florida First District Court of Appeal ruling:

When the results of Tate High School’s 2020 homecoming queen election came in, Laura Carroll’s daughter appeared to have won convincingly. But not everyone was convinced. The teacher responsible for administering the election reported to school officials that many votes in the election had been flagged by the election application software—and that every flagged vote had been cast for Carroll’s daughter.

At the time, Carroll was an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School, with districtwide access to all student accounts in the school district’s FOCUS portal. It was suspected by some that Carroll’s daughter had access to her mother’s credentials to the FOCUS portal and had used that access to acquire confidential student information. Information that she then used to cast votes for herself in the homecoming 2 queen election. The school district appointed Gary Marsh to investigate the report. Marsh concluded that the suspicions linking Carroll to the improperly cast votes were well-founded.

Tate High School allowed students to vote for homecoming queen through an application called Election Runner. On election day, Election Runner administrators reported to the school district that one hundred seventeen votes had been flagged as “false.” To cast votes in the election, students had to verify their identity using their student identification number and their date of birth. This information was available in FOCUS. All the votes flagged by Election Runner were from students whose records had been accessed from Carroll’s FOCUS account in the thirty days before the election. And every flagged vote was cast for Carroll’s daughter.

As an assistant principal at Belleview with administrator access, Carroll could use FOCUS to review confidential information for any student in the school district, including grades, attendance, and mental health records. Marsh reviewed a report from the school’s information management system and confirmed that Carroll’s FOCUS credentials were used to view confidential information of two hundred twelve Tate High School students in the thirty days before the homecoming queen election. And in the year before the election, confidential records of three hundred thirty-nine students at Tate were accessed with Carroll’s credentials. As Carroll worked at the elementary school, it was unclear why she would have needed to access records of students at Tate.

District officials decided to question Carroll to see if she had an explanation for accessing so many high school student records. Marsh went to Belleview to speak with Carroll, but she refused to talk to him. Marsh then asked Carroll to come to the school district’s office for a formal interview.

When Carroll arrived, she was questioned for an hour by Marsh, with another school district official present—the information technology security manager. Carroll sat close to the door in the conference room where she was questioned. Marsh confirmed to Carroll that she was free to leave at any time.

Carroll answered some questions but she refused to answer others. At times, she stated: “Well, I’m not going to tell you that,” and “I’m not going to tell you.” She did admit that she had provided her daughter with access to her FOCUS credentials in the past.

When the school district’s investigation concluded, Marsh reported the data breach to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. FDLE investigated and verified that someone using Carroll’s credentials illegally accessed confidential records of Tate High School students in FOCUS. FDLE confirmed that one hundred seventeen votes in the homecoming queen election originated from a single Internet Protocol (IP) address. FDLE traced the IP address to Verizon and back to Carroll’s cell phone number.

FDLE also obtained nine written statements from Tate High School students and one teacher who attested that they had witnessed Carroll’s daughter using her mother’s FOCUS credentials or that the daughter had spoken with them about such use. One student reported that Carroll’s daughter had bragged about using her mother’s FOCUS credentials for the past four years, from the time she was a freshman at Tate. FDLE learned that FOCUS users had to change their passwords every forty-five days—meaning that Carroll’s daughter would have needed to regularly obtain or discover Carroll’s new passwords. FDLE also reviewed a written statement provided by Carroll’s daughter, admitting that she had access to Carroll’s FOCUS account.

FDLE also obtained records of the administrative hearing on the expulsion of Carroll’s daughter from school. During the hearing, Carroll submitted a letter to the hearing officer, stating that her daughter was guilty of accessing information from Carroll’s FOCUS account. Carroll admitted that she herself had viewed the records of hundreds of students at Tate by using her district administrator access.

FDLE applied for a warrant for Carroll’s arrest. Carroll* was arrested and charged with (1) accessing a computer system without authorization, (2) illegal use of personal identification information, (3) unlawful use of a two-way communications device to facilitate the commission of a felony, and (4) conspiracy to commit a felony.

Carroll moved to suppress the statements she made during the meeting with Marsh. She argued that her statements were coerced in violation of her right against self-incrimination because she feared adverse employment consequences if she did not cooperate with Marsh. The trial court denied the motion.

Carroll then pleaded no contest to the use of a two-way communications device to facilitate a felony in exchange for the State dropping the other three charges. She reserved the right to appeal the trial court’s denial of her motion to suppress. The trial court withheld adjudication and sentenced her to eighteen months of probation. This timely appeal followed.


14 Responses to “State Appeal Court Denies Mom’s Appeal In Tate Homecoming Queen Scandal Case”

  1. Bob on April 15th, 2024 9:21 pm


    Potentially hundreds of kids have had their person identifiable information compromised. You can’t unring that bell. Their safety has been violated by the people that were entrusted to protect them.

    I find it ironic that every time a kid is arrested for drug possession, the comments are filled with calls for their execution. But when someone intentionally violates security standards and commits a crime compromising the safety of her classmates to win a BEAUTY PAGEANT, it’s suddenly no big deal.

    I don’t get it.

  2. Give me a break on April 14th, 2024 10:02 pm


    If you believe that’s how this works then I guess your name is appropriate.

  3. Give me break on April 14th, 2024 9:54 pm

    “A lesson for everyone else” is 100% correct.

    Do not offer a statement, a comment, anything to a law enforcement official without obtaining legal counsel.

    You have rights that they attempt to circumvent with tactics. Do not trust or believe them.

    Get an attorney.

  4. tg on April 14th, 2024 4:35 pm

    It looks like she has missed the notariaty.

  5. Bewildered on April 14th, 2024 9:29 am

    To :A lesson for everyone else
    If you are honest and truthful no matter what the circumstances you don’t need sly lawyers to do the talking for you.

  6. Shayz on April 13th, 2024 10:10 pm

    SMH, with all the complete insanity going on in our country right now and this ridiculously unimportant beauty pageant nonsense is what you are up in arms about, years after the fact?!? Pay attention to the things that actually matters people. Come on!

  7. Steve on April 13th, 2024 8:24 pm

    Hopefully FOCUS has improved their security clearance . Homecoming queen is one thing ; grades are something different .

  8. Lou on April 13th, 2024 6:44 pm

    Assistant principal abusing her position. Two woman with no remorse for what they did , still linguering on the minds of taxpayers and student’s regarding what’s going on our school district. Just make them pay fees for cost to law enforcement agencies, the school district and courts cost ., and allowed them to be the next kardagians show.

  9. Vivi on April 13th, 2024 3:30 pm

    My comments are directed to the author of “a lesson for everyone else“. You are so off the mark — the true lesson here is NOT to clam up and call a lawyer; the true lesson is that you should conduct yourself in an honorable and honest way. What a hollow victory it must’ve been for the homecoming queen and her mother for her to have won her crown in such a dishonest manner!

  10. Trish on April 13th, 2024 2:41 pm

    All the students that she accessed their focus accounts should file a lawsuit against them for the confidential information the daughter saw on focus that she had no right to view. It’s pretty sad that a grown woman would go to such lengths to cheat for her daughter to win homecoming queen. What kind of example does that set for her? Not to mention the impressionsble children that were at the school that she worked at.

  11. A lesson for everyone else on April 13th, 2024 2:06 pm

    The true lesson here is:

    Simply refuse to answer questions (in this case by a school investigator) without an attorney. The questioning must stop until your attorney is present.

    Similarly, if you are pulled over by law enforcement and they ask if they can search your car, you have a right to say no. At that point, a search warrant has to be obtained.

    In both circumstances, be polite and non-aggressive.

    The constitution protects you. But you have to understand what you need to do to put its protections into motion.

  12. Bill T on April 13th, 2024 10:02 am

    We all love our children and want the best for them!!! But to teach them to lie cheat and steal is not a good way to be !!! Now this woman needs about 7.5 years of prison time to understand that you don’t go this !! Right now she ain’t learn nothing and needs more karma in her cheating life !!!!!

  13. Lou on April 13th, 2024 8:42 am

    This whole thing is so childish yet very important. I feel they both deserve the punishment and shame, This puts in the spotlight the accessibiility of students records to school personnel.
    This mother is guilty of providing her password and as “the adult” did not do her due diligence. Most employers have inservices regarding safeguarding passwords.

  14. JTV on April 13th, 2024 7:50 am

    Seems like the state should pursue the three Charges they dropped, since she’s going to appeal.