ASU Launches Hate Speech Surveillance With Biden Administration’s Help

ASU Launches Hate Speech Surveillance With Biden Administration’s Help

By Corinne Murdock |

Last week, Arizona State University (ASU) launched a hate speech surveillance campaign with assistance from the federal government.

ASU’s McCain Institute received support from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grant Program to launch SCREEN Hate, an effort to monitor youths’ online activity. The institute told parents and caregivers that it was only a matter of time before the minors in their lives were discovered and corrupted by hate online.

“Trusting that your family’s values will protect them is not enough,” warned the campaign site.

The campaign resources came from DHS and leftist organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), UNESCO, Common Sense Media, and the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

The NSBA coordinated with the Biden administration to investigate parents and community members for domestic terrorism based on their school board activism. When reporters discovered this coordination between the DOJ and NSBA, the NSBA issued an apology letter that they later backdated on their website weeks after our reporting pointed out the letter’s absence online. It was only when the NSBA uploaded and backdated its apology letter that they deleted their celebratory press release about the Biden administration heeding their petition to investigate parents. 

One of the SPLC resources insinuated that devout Christians constituted extremist beliefs.

“Extremist beliefs say that one group of people is in dire conflict with other groups who don’t share the same racial or ethnic, gender or sexual, religious, or political identity,” stated SPLC. “Extremists believe that this imagined conflict can only be through separation, domination, or violence between groups.”

One resource from UNESCO advises individuals on how to “stop the spread of conspiracy theories.” The organization asserts that the world can’t be divided into objective good or bad, and that no powerful forces with negative intent are secretly manipulating events. 

Another resource, from the ADL, framed the 2020 George Floyd riots as peaceful protests, and those opposed to the rioters as white supremacists and extremists. The resource, “White Supremacy Search Trends in the United States,” also claimed that white supremacy was behind the January 6 protest at the Capitol. 

Search trends that the ADL deemed “white supremacist” included any inquiries about the truth behind the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization. The organization also declared that search trends reflecting concerns about the “great replacement theory” were rooted in conspiracy. ADL said that Arizona was the third in the top ten states it deemed to have the highest consumption of extremist content.

SCREEN Hate directs individuals to download the “Resilience Net” app in order to access a directory of practitioners who specialize in violence and terrorism prevention. It’s part of the One World Online Resilience Center (OWORC), a DHS-funded initiative from the Massachusetts-based organization founded by Boston Marathon survivors, One World Strong.

SCREEN Hate is the latest initiative of the McCain Institute’s Preventing Targeted Violence Program, which mainly focuses on combating right-wing extremists and white supremacy. The McCain Institute attributes the program’s focus to the DHS declaration that white supremacists were the biggest threat to the U.S., citing the 2020 Homeland Threat Assessment.

The Biden administration has labeled Americans supportive of former President Donald Trump as “MAGA Republicans” that present a “clear and present danger” to the country.

“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” declared Biden. “MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people.”

During Sunday’s speech commemorating the 21st anniversary of 9/11, Biden alluded to his administration’s focus on rooting out present domestic terror threats at home.

That same day, Vice President Kamala Harris clarified Biden’s intent in a subsequent interview with MSNBC. The pair discussed the Biden administration’s focus on combating the “threat from within,” which Harris concurred was comparable to 9/11. 

“I think [that threat] is very dangerous and I think it is very harmful. And it makes us weaker,” said Harris.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Majority of Arizona Students Continue to Fail Statewide Testing, Per Latest Report

Majority of Arizona Students Continue to Fail Statewide Testing, Per Latest Report

By Corinne Murdock |

The latest Arizona Department of Education (ADE) report reveals that a majority of Arizona students continue to fail the statewide assessment.

This year, only 41 percent of students passed the English Language Arts (ELA) portion, while 33 percent passed the mathematics section.

The ADE revealed these declining results last Wednesday in a press release. However, ADE presented the results as overall gains, noting that students experienced increases of three percent in English Language Arts (ELA) and two percent in mathematics. 

Yet, last year’s results may not be weighed against these most recent results — the 2021 assessment report disclosed that “a significant number of students” weren’t tested, and therefore those results shouldn’t carry as much weight. Test results from Hoffman’s first year in office, 2019, were only slightly better than those this year: 42 percent of students passed both ELA and math.

It could be argued that those results were part of an upswing in testing that occurred under Hoffman’s predecessor, Diane Douglas. In 2016, 38 percent of students passed ELA and math. In 2017, 39 percent of students passed ELA and 40 percent passed math. In 2018, 41 percent of students passed both ELA and math. 

Additionally, only a few percentage points were gained overall despite the ADE dedicating millions of COVID-19 relief funds to improve test scores.

Superintendent Kathy Hoffman said that she’s petitioning the state to increase funding by lifting the aggregate expenditure limit (AEL) to further improve test scores.

“If we want to continue increasing scores, defunding our public schools will have the opposite impact,” said Hoffman. “The infusion of federal dollars shows that increased funding can increase learning outcomes, not just on test scores but in our student’s abilities to thrive and contribute to our state.”

In an interview with “The Conservative Circus,” Hoffman’s opponent, former superintendent and attorney general Tom Horne, declared that the statewide assessment results constituted an emergency. He noted that student proficiency had fallen far from his 2003 to 2011 tenure, when Arizona students were over 60 percent proficient in math and over 70 percent proficient in English.

“It’s hard to imagine it could be worse,” said Horne. 

Horne claimed that Hoffman was focused on implementing systems that distracted from proper education, citing social-emotional learning (SEL) as one problematic distraction. 

“With social-emotional learning, the teachers are discouraged from imposing discipline because it might hurt some kids’ feelings,” said Horne. 

During the interview, Horne also opined that the ADE links to sexualized LGBTQ+ chat rooms for minors weren’t legal. As AZ Free News reported this week, Hoffman was sued last month for linking to these chat rooms on the ADE website. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Gubernatorial Candidate, Private Schooler Hobbs Vows to Undo Universal School Choice

Gubernatorial Candidate, Private Schooler Hobbs Vows to Undo Universal School Choice

By Corinne Murdock |

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs, a product of private schools, revealed on Monday that she plans to reverse Arizona’s universal school choice if elected.

Hobbs appropriated pro-school choice phrasing to describe her 13-page anti-school choice plan. She omitted her private school attendance from the plan.

“Zip code shouldn’t determine the quality of public education our Arizona students receive,” wrote Hobbs. “As governor, I will always fight for students, teachers, and parents to have the resources they need to succeed.”

In 1988, Hobbs graduated from Seton Catholic Preparatory High School, a private high school in Chandler. As one of the most expensive private schools in the state, SCP tuition sits around $17,700 currently, with a discounted rate for proven Catholic families of $13,300. 

In her education plan, Hobbs called the funds from Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program “vouchers.” However, the ESA Program funds are not “vouchers” — they are education scholarship accounts. Vouchers may only be used at private schools, whereas education scholarship account funds may be used for a greater variety of educational needs, such as tutoring. 

“Vouchers should not have been expanded to provide an unaccountable means of enriching private schools and defunding our local public schools,” reads the plan. 

READ HOBBS’ PLAN TO UNDO SCHOOL CHOICE HERE

In a 2019 interview celebrating her alma mater’s 65th anniversary, Hobbs told Gilbert Sun News that attending a small private school gave her the positive experience of a more intimate, tailored learning experience, such as her teachers encouraging her to discover timeless truths in classic literature.

“It really felt like a family,” said Hobbs. “You really had a chance to get to know the people that you went to school with.”

AZ Free News asked Hobbs’ campaign whether Hobbs’ children have attended any private schools. They didn’t respond by press time.

Both of Hobbs’ children attended Arizona School for the Arts, a charter school.

Hobbs’ plan also seeks to eliminate the aggregate expenditure limit (AEL). The AEL limits K-12 public schools’ expenditures every year based on the calculation of the aggregate expenditure of all districts, adjusted for student counts and inflation. The state legislature increased the AEL this past session so that schools could spend their budgets in full. 

The rest of Hobbs’ education plan pledges to establish free preschool and kindergarten, especially for low-income and minority families; reduce child care costs and increase options; increase teacher pay by up to $14,000 to match the national average; reduce teacher health care costs; increase fundings for school renovations; restore the special education cost study; increase funding for special needs care; and nearly-free, if not totally free, college education for students that live in state — whether they’re American residents or illegal immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) rule.

Further, Hobbs’ pledged to increase funding to the Arizona Teachers Academy to grow enrollment; increase school funds to hire more mental health professionals and social workers; establish permanent funding for Northern Arizona University’s Teacher Residency Program; increase funding to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to establish new STEM grants and scholarships, particularly for women and “people of color”; expand Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment programs to all schools; establish a refundable tax credit for career and technical education pursuits; fund start-up medical program costs; and establish health care training programs.

Additionally, Hobbs promised to increase oversight of charter schools through increased funding to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools and the Auditor General. She also pledged to require charter schools to participate in the Auditor General’s annual classroom spending report, prohibit charter schools from making a profit from the sales of land and buildings, and publicize charter corporate boards through their inclusion in open meeting and public records laws. 

Absent from Hobbs’ plan was any mention of additional funding for homeschooling families. Hobbs didn’t respond to our questions about that by press time, either. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Superintendent Kathy Hoffman Sued Over Adult-Supervised, Secretive Sex Chat Rooms for Minors

Superintendent Kathy Hoffman Sued Over Adult-Supervised, Secretive Sex Chat Rooms for Minors

By Corinne Murdock |

Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Superintendent Kathy Hoffman is facing a lawsuit for advertising links to chat rooms where minors discuss sex and gender with adults present and without parents necessarily knowing.

The lawsuit, case number CV2022-093889 filed in the Maricopa County Superior Court, requests that ADE remove the chat space from its website. Judge Peter Thompson was assigned the case. 

The chat room website advertised by the ADE, Q Chat Space, targets LGBTQ+ youth 13 years and older. It offers a “quick escape” feature that masks a child’s visit to the site by redirecting from the Q Chat Space site to Google’s homepage. The adults facilitating discussions, “Q Chatters,” don’t have to be licensed professionals.

Some of the upcoming chat rooms are: “Sex and Relationships Q&A,” “FOR TRANS/NON-BINARY YOUTH: Activism and Allyship,” and “FOR TRANS/NONBINARY YOUTH: Sex Ed.”

The site has minors offer personal information when signing up, including their sexual orientation, romantic interests, gender identity, email address, birth date, ZIP code, and race.

According to the ADE, Hoffman developed the LGBTQ+ resource page with her Equitable and Inclusive Practices Advisory Council (EIPAC) before launching it last June as part of Pride Month.

The citizen behind the lawsuit, Peggy McClain, claimed that Hoffman violated the Parents’ Bill of Rights provision prohibiting any attempts to encourage or coerce minors to withhold information from their parents. McClain further asserted that the children’s data was vulnerable to hacking and could therefore be sold on the dark web to child predators, noting that some of the adult chat facilitators could be child predators as well. 

“By doing the things set forth above, Katherine Hoffman is encouraging the grooming of young children,” stated McClain.

Q Chat Space is a collaborative effort of Planned Parenthood, the LGBTQ+ support network organization PFLAG, and LGBTQ+ community center organization CenterLink. 

ADE also directs minors to another chat site similar to the one contested in the lawsuit: Gender Spectrum. That chat site is open to minors aged 10 and older.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

​University of Arizona Launches East Asia Program

​University of Arizona Launches East Asia Program

By Corinne Murdock |

The University of Arizona (UArizona) announced this week that it would establish a Center for East Asian Studies. East Asia includes China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan. UArizona is the only higher education institution in the state with an East Asia NRC. 

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) awarded UArizona $5.9 million to launch the program under its Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) Title IV National Resource Center (NRC) grants. 

The purpose of Title VI NRCs is to instill understanding of the countries featured by the center and teach one or more of those countries’ languages. Additionally, these centers maintain relationships with foreign higher education institutions and other organizations that contribute to each center’s teaching and research. 

Other East Asia NRCs are located at Columbia University, Stanford University, Ohio State University, University of California – Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Hawaii, University of Kansas, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, University of Washington, and University of Wisconsin – Madison. 

For the 2022 fiscal year, OPE appropriated over $25.5 million in funds to NRCs. 

The establishment of a center focused on East Asian studies comes about two years after the mass forced closures of Chinese government-backed Confucius Institutes: a trio consisting of the Chinese government, a Chinese higher education institute, and an American higher education institute. 

Confucius Institutes pushed Chinese propaganda without academic freedom under the guise of teaching Chinese language and culture. In all, the Chinese government had a foothold in 118 higher education institutions. 

Along with UArizona, Arizona State University (ASU) once had a Confucius Institute. Under changes to federal law under the Trump administration, both universities closed their institutes. 

However, both universities have maintained their ties to China through other avenues. UArizona continues its relationship with China and their Confucius Institute partner Shaanxi Normal University through other departments, such as the Center for Buddhist Studies. Likewise, ASU continues its relationship with China’s Sichuan University.

While it had a Confucius Institute on campus, UArizona shared a comfortable relationship with the Chinese government. Three years into the institute’s founding, the university shared a news feature on their institute from CCTV: the Chinese government-controlled news station. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

$5 Million of Phoenix’s COVID Relief Funds Paying For Community College Tuitions

$5 Million of Phoenix’s COVID Relief Funds Paying For Community College Tuitions

By Corinne Murdock |

The Phoenix City Council gave $5 million of the city’s COVID-19 recovery funds to the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) Foundation. 

The millions will be distributed to around 400 students with financial need through a newly-launched tuition assistance program, the Phoenix Promise Program. However, the program won’t end once the $5 million of American Rescue Plan Action (ARPA) funding is spent. The city stated last month that they would partner with the MCCD Foundation, along with other, unnamed education institutions, the business community, nonprofits, local governments, and philanthropic organizations to perpetuate the program. 

One of the nonprofits that assisted the city of Phoenix and MCCCD in developing the Phoenix Promise Program was Aliento, an illegal immigrant activist organization. The Arizona House awarded a proclamation to the organization for its service to “mixed-document” backgrounds in June.

The city first approved this initial $5 million allocation in early June, followed by a contract with MCCD Foundation at the end of August. The first tuition assistance payments will be awarded for the upcoming Spring 2023 semester, and will be awarded each semester through Spring 2025. About $280,000 of the $5 million will go to administrative costs. 

Each Phoenix Promise Program recipient will receive $965 each semester. In addition to tuition, recipients may use their funds to pay for books, fees, technology, supplies, transportation, food, and childcare. 

The program will also provide recipients with an academic advisor; exclusive access to workshops, boot camps, tutoring, counseling, and other support services; and personalized assistance from MCCCD’s career services. 

During Wednesday’s city council meeting, Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari lamented that illegal immigrant students with deferred deportation — namely Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, also known as DREAMers — don’t qualify for the funding. Ansari disclosed that city and county officials are researching how to secure funding for them. 

“Because this is federal funding, we are unable legally to support our DACA students with it but something we’re looking to do very soon, now that we’ve launched the program, is bringing in other partners,” said Ansari. 

The application deadline for Phoenix Promise Program’s Spring 2023 awards is October 31.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.