For four days, a 29-year-old woman pretended to be a student at a New Jersey public high school. She attended classes, spent time in the guidance office and collected phone numbers from teenagers who helped her find her way through the maze of hallways, according to students and a school official.
She continued to text former classmates days after the ruse was discovered last week, students said.
The woman, identified by the police as Hyejeong Shin, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with providing documents that falsified her age to officials at New Brunswick Public Schools, a district with nearly 10,000 students in central New Jersey.
The incident, first reported by New Brunswick Today, has raised concerns about the safety protocols in place to verify student identities — and the woman’s reason for sneaking into a school that enrolls children as young as 15 in the first place.
Aubrey A. Johnson, the school superintendent, told board members Tuesday night that the district would be evaluating “how to better look for fake documentation and other things,” according to a video of the meeting shared on Twitter. Neither school nor police officials offered any information about a possible motive for her behavior.
Ms. Shin, of New Brunswick, N.J., provided a false birth certificate to school officials, a third-degree crime, according to a spokesman for the city’s Police Department.
Schools in New Jersey are required to provisionally enroll all children in school, even in the absence of records typically provided to verify identity or prove they live in the community.
From that point, students have 30 days to provide additional proof of identity, or the district has the option to declare them ineligible to attend class, according to the superintendent.
“Once our staff determined it was dealing with fraudulent information, they immediately notified the appropriate authorities,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement.
Ms. Shin has been barred from entering school grounds, and students have been advised to end all contact with her.
The tale may seem like a throwback to “Never Been Kissed” and “Hiding Out,” PG-13-rated movies that featured thehigh jinks of adults impersonating high school students to report a news story and hide from the Mafia.
But students at New Brunswick High School said they were worried that Ms. Shin’s behavior suggested that her motives were far less comical.
Nearly a dozen students showed up at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting prepared to express concerns about the incident but were not permitted to speak because of a rule requiring speakers to register in advance.
Students told a New Brunswick Today reporter, in a video posted to YouTube, that Ms. Shin had requested to meet at least some people she met at a location outside of school.
One teenage girl, who identified herself as Tatiana, said that the night before the woman’s arrest she got a text from Ms. Shin that left her feeling frightened for her safety.
“All I wanted to do was make her feel comfortable in a new school,” she said.
“If she has the ability to falsify documents, enter a public high school, have close contact with young students,” she added, “she has the ability to do anything.”
Calls to a New Brunswick resident with the same name as the 29-year-old were not returned. Neither the mayor of New Brunswick nor his spokesman returned calls.
Alain Delaquérière contributed research.