Police in New Jersey arrested a woman who enrolled as a student in a public high school.
Hyejeong Shin is 29 years old and has been charged with one count of providing a false government document with the intent to verify one’s identity or age.
According to a statement from the New Brunswick Police Department, Shin submitted a fake birth certificate to the city’s Board of Education in order to “enroll as a juvenile high-school student.”
“Pursuant to New Jersey statutes (18a:36-25.1) and guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education, schools are required to immediately enroll unaccompanied children, even in the absence of records normally required for enrollment,” read the statement. “Proof of guardianship is not necessary to immediately enroll an unaccompanied child or youth.”
“Although a school district might request documents such as a birth certificate to verify a child’s age, a school district may not prevent or discourage a child, including an unaccompanied child, from enrolling in or attending school because he or she lacks a birth certificate or has records that indicate a foreign place of birth, such as a foreign birth certificate,” added the department.
Shin, who lives in New Brunswick, has reportedly been attending classes and representing herself as a teenager for four days before the deception was detected by a staff member, per NBC DFW. Her motive was not immediately clear.
Over 2,000 students are enrolled in New Brunswick High School.
Superintendent Aubrey Johnson said at a Jan. 24 school board meeting that, upon discovery, Shin had been prohibited from entering school property.
“All appropriate authorities were immediately notified, and the individual in question has now been arrested for providing false documentation,” Johnson said. “We’re going to take a look at our process … in terms of how to better look for fake documentation and other things.”
A letter about the incident, including Shin’s photo, was sent to the parents of students at the school.
A number of students spoke at the Board of Education meeting, expressing concerns for their safety. According to the students, Shin represented herself as a 15-year-old freshman and asked several students over text to hang out, per CBS News.
“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,” said one girl, identified as Tatianna by New Brunswick Today. “Not knowing she was a 29-year-old woman makes me question how safe I am in this building.”
Tatianna told the board she gave Shin “personal information” and feels “taken advantage of.”
“From what I’ve been told, [the woman’s] intentions were to lure kids to a specific street in New Brunswick and possibly traffic them,” Michael Castro, who attended the meeting, told the outlet. “It was so easy for her to engage with these students, teachers, and faculty members because no one ever did a thorough investigation of where this woman came from.”