A high school student fed up with the unknown thief who stole money from students’ backpacks set up an undercover sting operation to discover the identity of the burglar.
Justine Betti, a sophomore at Linden High School, decided to hide in a locker during gym class to catch a glimpse of the person, and to her surprise, found it was a teacher at the school.
When all the students finished changing and left the locker room, a teacher stayed in the room and went through their bags, taking the money out of them.
Betti told her friends what she had seen, but no one believed her.
That’s when she decided to take things to another level by staking out the locker room again, this time with a camera phone in her hands and another camera set up in a different locker.
On February 13, she took pictures of the teacher rummaging through their bags and taking cash. The images and video were captured on both cameras.
“I didn’t want to believe that she would do something like that because she was so nice, but then she did it,” Betti said. “It was really scary. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I just got this on video.’”
After she captured the footage, and watching it a couple of times, she took it to the principal, who said an investigation would be conducted but that she should delete the video.
By that time, though, Betti had already sent the footage to her father and a few friends.
The teacher has not been identified, but many students were shocked by the ordeal. They described her as a “great teacher” who had worked at the school for 30 years.
Now, she is on administrative leave pending an inquiry by the Linden School District and the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department.
The district attorney must make the decision to file criminal charges against the teacher.
A sister of the teacher confirmed the woman in the video was the teacher, but said she looks to be searching for something other than money.
“She would never steal,” her sister said. “She doesn’t need the money.”
Betti said it was a difficult decision to move forward with the video, since the teacher was a favorite of many. But with encouragement from her classmates, she decided it was the right move.
“We feel like we did the right thing, but it’s still kind of hard,” she said.