A Texas high school principal and former school board member is facing up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for ordering her teenaged daughter to plant a hidden surveillance camera in a girl’s locker room.
According to prosecutors in Denton County, Texas, Wendee Long is not only the principal of Fort Worth’s Wayside Middle School, she is also the parent of two daughters who attend nearby Argyle High School. Long’s daughters, who used to play for their school’s basketball team, allegedly told their mother that their coach screamed at the players when no one was around.
As many parents would be, Long was concerned about the situation, say prosecutors. However, what she did next was a step too far, they say. Authorities say Long had her daughter smuggle a camera phone into the locker room during an away game at Sanger High School and set it to record everything that was said at halftime.
The resulting video showed no wrongdoing, according to the investigators. However, Long did not erase the video once the coach was cleared. The video ended up in the hands of a viewer who sent it to the school board, who handed it over to the police.
Local authorities investigated the case, and Long was eventually indicted by a grand jury for improper photography as well as felony wiretapping. Her daughter is not being charged.
According to assistant prosecutor Jaime Beck, the setting in which the surveillance took place, coupled with Long’s intention to invade the privacy of the coach and all the young players are the key factors that make Long different from a mother who captures mall employees in the background while recording her children eating ice cream.
Prosecutors said the charges were so serious because Long intended to invade someone’s privacy. “This occurred in a private girls locker room,” said Beck.
Long was released on $25,000 bail and is on paid administrative leave from her job. The district has stated that it will conduct its own investigation. Her attorney, Daniel Peugh, expressed surprise at the charges his client is facing. “She has not violated any law,” he said.