Controversial AZ School District Cooperated with Police to Gather Intel on Dissenting Parents: Report


We can say this about the Chandler Unified School District in Chandler, Arizona: They didn’t need Attorney General Merrick Garland to start spying on parents and coordinating their arrest.

According to the Daily Caller, emails uncovered by a parents group revealed that CUSD’s director of school safety, Tanya Smith, was in contact with Chandler police Sgt. Greg Howarth in April and May as parents were protesting against mask mandates in schools.

The situation was complicated by a long battle in the district over critical race theory. After a series of 2019 reports spotlighted a controversial teacher training program called “Deep Equity” being used across the country, including in Chandler, parents began to revolt. The pandemic no doubt exacerbated existing problems.

So Tanya Smith did what any director of school safety would do: She exchanged emails with police, asking them to provide information on parents groups as the mask mandate battle intensified.

In a May 4 email, Smith notified police of a May 12 board meeting dealing with mask mandates. She said she was scouring social media to see who would attend and asked law enforcement, “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,” the Daily Caller reported.

“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.”

The police department not only complied with Smith’s request but set up an intelligence task force.

On May 27, Howarth emailed police Lt. Jason Sieczkowski about three parents groups — a progressive group police apparently had no issue with and two groups labeled “disruptors.”

One of the “disruptors” was called Patriot Party of Arizona. The group has less than 1,000 followers on Twitter, and it’s unclear how it is related to the Patriot Party movement that The Wall Street Journal reported last month was being suppressed by Facebook.

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What is clear, however, is that the group was considered a threat by Chandler police in part because of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“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,” the Daily Caller reported.

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

Howarth said CUSD should “cut the mic” on parents speaking at meetings without a mask.

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“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.”

District parent Jennifer Alvey called the coordination with police and threats of arrest “egregious.”

“At worst, these emails would seem to indicate that [the Chandler Police Department] 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.”

And yet this is where we are.

Let’s not forget that while CUSD was enforcing mask mandates in schools, it was also canceling prom and severely limiting invitations for graduation until it was revealed that the district superintendent’s retirement party would go on as scheduled.

Now we know the school district was likely involved in a campaign of suborned surveillance against its civilian opponents. This is the blueprint for what Attorney General Merrick Garland wanted.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture