In New Brunswick, New Jersey students at a majority Latino high school are speaking out against the town’s BOE following an incident in which a 29-year-old woman posed as a student for four days.

Hyejong Shin successfully exploited a loophole in NJ’s education system

Although authorities eventually unearthed her true identity, the woman made connections with various students. She collected identifying information on multiple students in the four days she attended New Brunswick High School.

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Now, students are concerned that, even though Shin is no longer a student at New Brunswick High, she’ll use their information to target them in a possible human trafficking scheme.

Shin exploited a loophole in New Jersey’s public school system, which requires schools to enroll unaccompanied children even if they don’t have all the proper identifying documents. From the time of their enrollment, students have 30 days to submit those documents.

However, when it comes to something like human trafficking, 30 days provide traffickers with enough time to prey on and ultimately abduct students after collecting their information.

Multiple students at New Brunswick High are expressing concerns about Shin’s ability to locate them, despite no longer attending the school. But the town’s BOE is actively barring them from speaking out at official meetings.

New Brunswick’s Board of Education’s response

A local outlet called New Brunswick Today sent reporters to an official BOE meeting where the board prevented students from speaking on the basis that speakers must register in advance to speak at meetings.

However, because the board decided to hold the meeting as soon as students learned about Shin’s identity, students had trouble signing up for an opportunity to speak.

Instead, they spoke to New Brunswick Today. The students read statements they wrote, expressing concerns about their own safety in the wake of this troubling turn of events. One student, in particular, was unsure of her safety after giving her phone number to Shin. The student also escorted her to classes in an attempt to make her feel more comfortable.

All in all, the New Brunswick Public Schools system oversees some 10,000 students. New Brunswick High, alone, is home to nearly 2,400 students. The district’s Superintendent, Aubrey A. Johnson, told attendees the district would work to increase security measures to prevent future incidents.

College or trafficking? The motives are still unclear

However, they would not divulge any information on the possible motives behind Shin’s decision to enroll. There are multiple cases of adults enrolling as students for better access to scholarships and college opportunities. Even still, traffickers enrolling in high schools and colleges is becoming more prevalent globally.

According to students who spoke to New Brunswick Today, Shin asked multiple students to meet with her outside of school. She even continued texting them after the school’s faculty discovered her identity.

New Brunswick High School is particularly vulnerable for a number of reasons. Students accuse the town’s BOE of turning a blind eye to student issues. Latino students comprise an overwhelming majority of the school’s student body.

Public School Review reveals New Brunswick High School scored just 1/10 points based on test scores and graduation rates. The New Jersey average in math proficiency among students is 44%. At New Brunswick High, it’s just 8%. Similarly, the state average in reading proficiency is 57%. At New Brunswick, the number drops to just 29%.

Traffickers may have set their sights on New Brunswick High because of its large minority population, large class sizes, and low test scores. If access to scholarships and other college resources was a priority, it would make little sense to attend one of the lowest-scoring schools in the state.

New Brunswick’s Board of Education is directing students to cease all contact with the 29-year-old woman, both in person and over the phone.