When 18-year-old Izaha Akins pulled up to a small-town high school in northern Ohio, he looked the part — with a driver and two “aides.”
He said he was a newly elected state senator who had been appointed to replace Republican Sen. Dave Burke, according to school officials. He was there, he said, to fill in for Burke as the guest speaker for a social studies class at Mohawk High School in Sycamore, Ohio.
“The presentation, although not ‘polished,’ was what one might expect from a young, inexperienced and newly appointed senator,” Ken Ratliff, superintendent for Mohawk Local School District, said in a statement. “No one was the wiser.”
That is, until a month later — when Burke showed up to speak.
Akins has since been charged with telecommunications fraud and impersonation of a peace officer, which includes government workers, authorities said.
But for the past several weeks, the Marion, Ohio, teenager’s motives have been causing confusion and controversy.
Burke had planned to speak in mid-January to students at Mohawk High. But a U.S. government teacher at the school received a call late last year from Akins, who allegedly claimed that Burke had become ill and resigned — and that Akins had been named as the senator’s replacement. He said he would visit in Burke’s place but needed to move up the date to December.
Administrators said “Sen. Akins” arrived Dec. 15, showed his real identification and gave the presentation. When Burke showed up for his scheduled presentation Jan. 14, school administrators and students discovered they had been “duped,” Ratliff said in a statement.
Akins, who has been released from police custody, first told police investigators he did it as a “prank” — that it was a “high” for him, Wyandot County Sheriff Mike Hetzel told The Washington Post.
Previously Akins told the Toledo Blade that his intention was to expose security risks in small-town schools. “These country schools think it can’t happen to them,” Akins told the newspaper, adding: “I was duping to prove a point, that these kinds of things can happen. They could easily have Googled me and they didn’t.”
Asked about Akins’s claims, however, Hetzel said Akins had made no such statement to police.
Authorities said Akins was arrested after they were alerted to the incident by the state senate. Burke, the real state senator, called it an “extremely elaborate scheme,” according to his spokesman.
Akins’s attorney, Andrew Wick, said Monday that his client was an “ambitious young person” who was making an attempt at political activism. Wick said Akins, a student at Ohio State University at Marion, planned to write a paper about security at rural schools.
The university confirmed that Akins is a freshman at the college, majoring in English and biology. But school officials said there is “no tie” between the college and incident at Mohawk High School.
Wick said it wasn’t Akins’s intent to embarrass the school district, create problems for the senator or cause the students and their parents any concern.
But Ratliff, the school superintendent, told The Post that his administrators are now being “villainized,” saying the reports of the incident are “beginning to hurt our school.” He said it had been reported that Akins had attended elementary schools in the district, but officials have not yet confirmed it. He added that during the police investigation, it was learned that Akins has cousins in the school system.
Ratliff said he has instructed administrators to “implement procedures to thoroughly screen” anyone gaining access into the school “to insure that this would not happen again.”