Arizona School Board, Police Coordinated To Spy On, Arrest Concerned Parents

Arizona School Board, Police Coordinated To Spy On, Arrest Concerned Parents
Baltimore School Board meets to vote down arming school resource officers, Jan 2019. CBS 13 Baltimore video

By Chrissy Clark

An Arizona school board coordinated with the Chandler Police Department to gather information on concerned parent groups and arrest unmasked parents at school board meetings.

The Chandler Unified School District’s (CUSD) Director of School Safety was in communication with Sergeant Greg Howarth, a Chandler police officer, in April and May, as parents were protesting mandatory masking in schools, according to emails obtained by the blog “Not in our Schools.” Howarth was tasked with aggregating intelligence on local concerned parent groups, all of whom are adamantly opposed to Critical Race Theory-inspired curriculum being taught in the district.

On May 4, CUSD’s Director of School Safety Tanya Smith notified Howarth that one of the agenda items at an upcoming May 12 governing board meeting was about mask mandates. Smith said that she was patrolling social media to see which parent groups were attending and asked police, “if you hear anything specific, can you please let us know.”

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Hours later, Howarth said that he had access to the websites of concerned parent groups and would “be monitoring all of them” and updating the district.

In a separate email, Smith told Howarth that CUSD governing board member Jason Olive was in conversations with a school board member in a separate district who had access to a parent Facebook group. Olive’s inside source claimed that CUSD’s governing board meeting would be the next “target” of parent activists who wanted to end mandatory masking.

By the end of May, the Chandler Police Department had an intelligence operation on parents underway. According to an email dated May 27, Howarth informed Lieutenant Jason Sieczkowski about his research into different parent groups.

“Here are some sites for you to pass along to the Intel Unit and Lt. Salazar, so whomever [sic] is coordinating and running this [operation] can continue to monitor and prepare for this one,” Howarth said.

Howarth pointed to three groups specifically. First, he pointed to the group “Parents for Equity in Education,” a group of progressive parents that calls for a curriculum inspired by critical race theory teachings. The police officer dubbed two opposing groups to “Parents for Equity in Education” as “the disruptors.”

“Disruptors” include the group “Purple for Parents,” which advocates for the removal of Critical Race Theory-inspired curriculum, and a fringe Republican political group named “Patriot Party AZ.”

Howarth’s “intel” included links to the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate watch” page. The intelligence was focused more on the fringe political group and its leader than on actual parent groups that were protesting the mask mandates.

Other links included in the “intel” report were to articles that dubbed passionate parents as disruptive for speaking out against their school board. The examples of “disruptive” protests included three examples of parents refusing to wear their masks.

Howarth also said that the progressive Parents for Equity in Education had tagged the Chandler Police Department to deal with unmasked parents.

According to the available emails, coordination between the police and CUSD began in April. The first emails available date to April 27, when Howarth crafted a strategy for CUSD board meetings. The police officer encouraged the president of the governing board to “cut the mic” for any parent that speaks without wearing a mask. (RELATED: Arizona School Board Hosts Retirement Party For Superintendent, Though Senior Prom Remains Canceled)

Howarth’s strategy included arresting parents for trespassing if they failed to comply with the district’s mask mandate.

“If someone doesn’t comply and you want them removed from the property let us know,” Howarth said. “If they fail to leave let us know that you want them trespassed and we can do that.”

Jennifer Alvey, a parent with children in CUSD, told the Daily Caller she found the coordination “egregious” and said that it appeared the school board was looking to further intimidate parents from exercising their First Amendment rights.

“At worst, these emails would seem to indicate that CPD suggested to CUSD officials that they be anticipating and selectively looking for any opportunity to silence, trespass, [or] remove the anti-mask meeting participants, using CPD as the willing muscle to help CUSD remove we parents for non-legally-enforceable issues,” Alvey said. “[This] is pretty egregious for we community members to contemplate.”

Chandler Unified School District, Tanya Smith, and Greg Howarth did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.

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