UPDATE: 29-Year-Old Who Posed as High School Student Was Lonely, Lawyer Says
New Jersey law requires schools to immediately enroll unaccompanied children, even in the absence of records normally required for enrollment.
UPDATE MARCH 24, 2023: The lawyer for the 29-year-old New Jersey woman accused of posing as a high school student for four days says she did so because she was lonely.
On Monday, Hyejeong Shin pleaded not guilty to providing a false government document, reports ABC News. According to her attorney, she didn’t have any bad intentions and knows she made a mistake.
ORIGINAL FEBRUARY 3, 2023 ARTICLE:
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A 29-year-old woman was arrested last week for using fraudulent documents to enroll as a student at New Brunswick High School.
Hyejeong Shin was charged on Jan. 24 with one count of providing a false government document after she allegedly submitted a fake birth certificate to the New Brunswick Board of Education and attended the school for nearly a week, reports CNN.
New Brunswick Public Schools (NBPS) Superintendent Dr. Aubrey Johnson said Shin “gained provisional admittance” to the school for four days. According to a news release from the New Brunswick Police Department, New Jersey schools cannot deny enrollment to an unaccompanied child, and while a district might request documents such as a birth certificate to verify age, it cannot prevent or discourage a child from enrolling “because he or she lacks a birth certificate or has records that indicate a foreign place of birth, such as a foreign birth certificate.”
Proof of guardianship is also not required to enroll a child and students have 30 days to provide further documentation of their identity. NBPS employees discovered the deceit while completing the established vetting protocols and “promptly barred her from entering any district property,” said Johnson. He also said the district will review its enrollment process to avoid similar incidents in the future.
During a school board meeting last Tuesday, Johnson said Shin attended a few classes but spent most of her time with guidance counselors to try and “get more information from her.” While police have not provided a potential motive for enrolling in the school, some students said they fear Shin might have been trying to recruit students for sex trafficking, New Brunswick Today reports.
“I think she was really trying to traffic young women which is what anybody who hears about this needs to be aware of your surroundings,” said senior Abrianna Martin. “I heard she was still trying to contact some of the young girls here even after we found out.”
Shin, a 2019 Rutgers University graduate, allegedly texted some of the students she met. One student, identified by New Brunswick Today as Tatianna, said she received a text message from Shin as recently as the night of Jan. 23.
“I was in class with this woman, and talked to her, walked her from point A to point B, and never expected this to happen,” the student said.
Johnson said the district directly contacted the parents of students Shin was in contact with and officials have told students to cut off contact with her.
Shin is expected to appear in Middlesex County Superior Court for a hearing on Feb. 16.
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