NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Officials admitted that a grown woman who posed as a teen girl was able to attend classes at the city’s high school for several days after enrolling with fake documents.
Superintendent Aubrey Johnson told the Board of Education that, during the week of January 16, the woman attempted to enroll in classes and attended the school for four days before she was ousted from the institution.
“By filing false documents, an adult female posing as a student was able to be enrolled in our high school,” admitted Johnson during his report at the BOE’s January 24 meeting.
“She was here for four days before being found out, and barred from entering the district property,” said Johnson. “All appropriate authorities were immediately notified, and the individual in question has now been arrested for providing false documentation.”
It’s just the latest in a series of controversies at the high school, which has been plagued by violence, and rattled by rumors of threats.
Now, community members are concerned about the woman’s motivations, the district is telling students who met with her not to communicate further, and students fear that she may have been attempting to lure young people into sex work.
But at their January 24 meeting, the Board of Education glossed over the shocking news, and effectively prevented students and parents from addressing them about it, voicing their concerns, or asking questions about how such a thing could happen.
The six board members present had no direct response to the revelations. They voted unanimously to approve Johnson’s report, and the topic was not mentioned again.
According to a reliable source, the imposter had claimed to be 15 years old, but raised suspicion because the district was not clear on the identity of her parent or legal guardian.
As a New Brunswick resident, the woman could have legally enrolled in the Adult Learning Center, located in the building that houses the board’s offices at 268 Baldwin Street.
On her final day as a NBHS student, as she was being questioned by officials, the woman allegedly asked to sign herself out of school, according to our source, who added she was then told she could not leave the building because she was not of age, only to then reveal she was actually 29 years old, nearly double the age she had claimed.
Johnson agreed to review the district’s enrollment procedures in light of the incident.
“We’re going to take a look at our process… in terms of how to better look for fake documentation and other things,” Johnson told the board members.
The Superintendent did not say how old the woman was, what day she was arrested, or which authorities were notified.
Both the New Brunswick Police Department and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office have not responded to New Brunswick Today’s requests for information about the case.
Board of Education members refused to hear from a group of students who came to their meeting to speak about the bizarre situation.
“We feel so unsafe and nobody wants to listen to us,” NBHS student Ethan Calderon told New Brunswick Today. “Do they not care about us because we’re minorities?”
Another student said she had received a text message from the woman as recently as 10:56pm on the night of January 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,” said the student, Tatianna.
“Not knowing she was a 29-year-old woman makes me question how safe I am in this building,” said the student, Tatianna, who says she now realizes she was “taken advantage of” and regrets giving her “personal information” to the woman.
The board cited a policy that requires members of the public to sign up at least 24 hours prior to the start of the meeting.
That policy was quietly added to the board’s arsenal of anti-democratic tactics on October 19, 2021, and has led to less people participating in meetings. It was also coupled with a decision to cut back the amount of time given to each speaker from five minutes to three minutes
When questioned about those changes the following month, Board President Dale Caldwell stated: “We thought that it was in the best interests of the community.”
In recent years, the Board of Education and its employees have overstepped their legal authority and undermined democracy several times, banning the distribution of our newspapers, stopping us from recording their meeting, and violating election laws.
News of the latest scandal had been kept under wraps until just hours before the board meeting, making it impossible for the students to sign up in time to be able to speak. Some felt the timing of Johnson’s release of information was deliberately meant to hinder the voices of students on the matter.
“They did that for a reason,” said Michael Castro, who later read the remarks he had planned to give to the board in front of our cameras, while the BOE met in a closed session.
Before leaving the auditorium for the closed session, Caldwell dismissively brushed off the students who wanted to speak, telling them: “It’s time for the President’s Report,” and later in the meeting, he directed them to contact Johnson.
“We’re moving on,” said Caldwell. “If you have a concern and you didn’t sign up in advance, please reach out to the Superintendent and he will be sure to handle your concern.”
While in closed session, this reporter spoke to several of the students, who were displeased they would not be able to address the board about the recent debacle.
At one point during the closed session, in the hallways outside the auditorium, School Security Director John Soulias interfered with our ability to interview the students.
“Why don’t we step outside? No more cameras,” Soulias declared, shortly after talking to building principal Matthew Rusnak.
Soulias asked us to go outside of the school if we wanted to record.
This reporter and the concerned students instead exercised our right to return to the meeting room, where their voices were finally heard in the absence of the BOE members.
“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,” said Castro. “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.”
“This is a wake-up call to do better and ensure the safety of students in New Brunswick.”
The board likely won’t be meeting in public again for over a month. Their next scheduled meeting is currently set for 7pm on February 28, and the public can attend in the NBHS auditorium (1000 Somerset Street).
To speak during the public comment portion of that meeting, people can email [email protected] to register at least 24 hours before the meeting starts.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.