Chandler School Board Member Melts Down Over Opposition to Cops on Campus 

Chandler School Board Member Melts Down Over Opposition to Cops on Campus 

By Corinne Murdock |

Tensions escalated during the Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) regular meeting on Wednesday over discussions of funding school resource officers (SROs).

Governing Board member Lindsay Love exhibited signs of a meltdown after fellow board member Joel Wirth expressed discomfort over her opposition to SROs. Love wanted the board to present more metrics and plans to the public for SROs before adding more of them on campuses. She cited the recent mass shootings in schools, namely Uvalde, Texas, to bolster her point for additional meetings on the subject.

“I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with cops on campus, right? I’m that person who doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable with cops around kids, right? But no matter how you feel about that, I think that there needs to be some transparency and I think that people need to know what the plan is,” said Love.

Wirth responded that he was uncomfortable with Love’s opposition to SROs. He saw the issue behind the Uvalde tragedy differently, arguing that more armed officers on campus would prevent similar tragedies from befalling CUSD. Wirth said that no SROs at all was not the right choice.

“Considering what’s going on in the world, that seems like the worst decision we can make — ” began Wirth.

At that point, Love interrupted Wirth to argue that there were CUSD members who didn’t want SROs. She claimed that SROs impacted certain categories of students to a greater negative degree than others. Love didn’t elaborate on what motives could drive that claimed impact.

“You may be comfortable with cops on campus but there are parents in this audience and students in this audience who may not, right? Because what we know is that we have cops on campus and they disproportionately impact BIPOC students and SPED students,” said Love. “I will not be silenced about this. We just had parents and students get up and address this. So you not feeling comfortable does not negate people in this audience and in our community who do not feel comfortable.”

Board President Barb Mozdzen instructed Love to give Wirth the floor to speak. Love interrupted Mozdzen instead.

“You know what Barb, I interrupted because I overheard him say over there, ‘Let somebody else speak,’ and I let everybody on this board speak,” said Love.

When Wirth tried to respond, Love shouted him down.

“No, I’m not letting you speak. I’m not letting you speak. I polled this myself, I had questions and I won’t be silenced,” said Love. “You can speak but I will not sit up here for a lecture.”

Mozdzen intervened to inform Love that she was out of order for breaking away from the agenda. Love refused to allow Mozdzen to continue speaking. Love asserted that if she was out of line, then Wirth was out of line for “lecturing” her in his response.

At that point, Mozdzen repeated to Love that Wirth was going to speak and that Love should remain silent. 

Wirth concluded by reiterating his belief that SROs were necessary for school safety.

“My point is, I believe it’s important to have officers on the campus based on what’s going on in the world right now. That’s all I have to say,” said Wirth. 

In a later post on Twitter, Love insisted that police intimidated minority and LGBTQ+ students.

Love, a controversial member, decided last November that she wouldn’t seek reelection. 

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

Illegal Immigration Activist Group Thanks House GOP for Proclamation In Its Favor

Illegal Immigration Activist Group Thanks House GOP for Proclamation In Its Favor

By Corinne Murdock |

On Monday, the Arizona House awarded a proclamation to an illegal immigrant activist group for their advocacy concerning in-state tuition, mental health, and education for illegal immigrants. State Representatives Michelle Udall (R-Mesa), Joel John (R-Buckeye), and Diego Espinoza (D-Tolleson) introduced the proclamation, which thanked the group, Aliento, for serving those of “mixed-documented” backgrounds.

Udall thanked Aliento for its polite and consistent work with the legislature and those of various legal and illegal backgrounds.

Reyna Montoya, co-founder of Aliento and protected from deportation due to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, celebrated the proclamation. Montoya founded Aliento in 2016 after experiencing “compounded trauma and education barriers” from growing up as a DACA recipient, or “Dreamer.” Montoya was 10 years old in 2003 when her mom smuggled her from Tijuana, Mexico, to Arizona. 

Despite not knowing English in the 8th grade and not having proper identification like a Social Security number, Montoya was admitted to college and earned her bachelor degrees in political science and transborder studies from Arizona State University (ASU) — even being recognized as ASU’s “Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student” — and a master’s degree in secondary education, ultimately earning many more accolades and recognitions including the 2018 Forbes: 30 Under 30 for social entrepreneurism. 

Last July, the Texas Southern District Court ruled that the Biden administration couldn’t approve new DACA applications. Judge Andrew Hanen, a Bush appointee, declared that Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) when it created DACA. 

DHS estimated around the time of Hanen’s ruling that over 825,000 individuals have benefited from DACA in all, with over 250,000 children who have at least one DACA parent. The latest available federal data estimated that there were over 640,700 active DACA recipients. 

Those who were DACA eligible had to have come into the country before they were 16 years old; had to have resided in the country for five consecutive years; had to be attending school, graduated high school, obtained their GED, or be honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or Armed Forces; had not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, multiple misdemeanors; and wasn’t over 30 years old. 

Last year, the legislature granted in-state tuition and financial aid to illegal immigrant students through SCR 1044, introduced by State Senator Paul Boyer (R-Glendale). The resolution overturned Prop 300, which voters approved in 2006 to block illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition rates and scholarships. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed Prop 300 in a 2018 ruling. 

Udall and John forced a vote on SCR 1044 by joining all House Democrats. They were later joined by Representatives David Cook (R-Globe) and Joanne Osborne (R-Goodyear). The remaining 13 Republicans opposed the resolution.

Udall cited the need for more working-class individuals as a reason for supporting SCR 1044. She also insisted that illegal immigrant children shouldn’t bear the brunt of their elders’ mistakes.

“We need more college-educated teachers, health care workers, lawyers, engineers and a host of other occupations,” stated Udall. “The youth this bill seeks to help shouldn’t be blamed or judged based on others’ actions. They were brought here as minors, as children.”

SCR 1044 will appear on the ballot in November.

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

Universal School Choice Passes Arizona House

Universal School Choice Passes Arizona House

By Corinne Murdock |

The Arizona House approved a universal expansion of the state’s school choice program on Wednesday afternoon. It now heads to the Senate for review.

The legislation, HB2853 by State Representative Ben Toma (R-Peoria), prompted protracted arguments that delayed the vote for about an hour. House Republicans managed to overcome Tuesday’s budget disputes to rally the majority to pass the bill, 31-26 along party lines. Anti-school choice activists in the gallery shouted “Shame!” repeatedly as the vote totals were read, adding to their general disruption and commentary presented throughout the hour-long debate on HB2853.

Democrats asserted that public schools weren’t fully funded, insinuating that was why they fell short in the eyes of Republicans and what they claimed was a minority of Arizona parents. They insisted that universal school choice through the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program contradicted the will of a majority of Arizona voters.

Republicans argued that school choice should be the option for all students, regardless of income or zip code. They repeated the idea that parents were the ultimate accountability for student success and outcomes, not government. 

As the final vote and argument presented, Toma argued that Democrats’ logic meant that voters couldn’t ever possibly change their mind on the subject of school choice, which he insisted wasn’t true. Toma insisted that dollars should follow the students and not be the ownership of individual systems.

Toma wondered why private schools should be the exclusive domain of the wealthy, citing back to committee testimony from Drew Anderson — a South Phoenix pastor, Democrat, and beneficiary of school choice, which lifted him out of the squalor of public schools and onto a path resulting in his becoming an NFL player and consequently enabling him to lift his entire family out of poverty.

“This is giving everyone the opportunity to make full use of all their choices,” said Toma.

AZ Free News summarized the highlights of the partisan floor arguments for and against HB2853.

Democrat Arguments Against Universal School Choice:

State Representative Kelli Butler (D-Paradise Valley) characterized the bill repeatedly as “disrespecting the will of voters,” which earned reprimanding from Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert). Butler doubted that beneficiaries of the ESA Program were using their funds to “learn anything,” claiming that there wasn’t proper oversight of beneficiary schools’ curriculum.

“They could be learning the most basic things and using our tax dollars,” said Butler.

State Representative Lorenzo Sierra (D-Avondale) said that public schools provided a far superior education, pointing out that 19 out of 20 Flinn Scholars went to public schools.

Sierra also predicted there would be regulations on this bill, speculating that a group of liberals would launch a school built around the 1619 Project, and that the legislature would then attempt to regulate private schools if that happened.

State Representative Judy Schwiebert (D-Phoenix) said that a vast majority of families choose a public district for their children because of their accountability and presence of school boards, calling public school curriculum “well-rounded, publicly vetted, [and] diverse.” 

Ultimately, Schwiebert insisted that not all children deserved school choice.

“Technically I know we’re giving it to parents, but let’s be real about it, we’re funneling it to private schools,” said Schwiebert. 

State Representative Mitzi Epstein (D-Chandler) said that school choice expansion at this scale would greatly increase cost of administration, and called parents’ access to taxpayer dollars to individualize their children’s education “inefficient.”

State Representative Andrés Cano (D-Tucson) asked his Republican colleagues to submit personal financial disclosures about their benefit to school choice.

State Representative Sarah Liguori complained that the ESA Program was corrupted because some of her wealthier “mom friends” used program funds toward their children’s education. Ligouri said that those individuals should pay for private schooling themselves.

House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen) claimed that “millionaires and billionaires” would receive a check to subsidize their child’s private schooling. He claimed that private schools wouldn’t return ESA program money even if the family couldn’t cover the rest of the tuition, and that public schools would have to “pick up the slack.”

State Representative Melody Hernandez (D-Tempe) said that expanding the ESA Program would actually trap low-income families in failing schools, many of whom she said were minorities. She called the bill “immoral,” and claimed that Republicans were targeting people like her by expanding a system of oppression.

Republican Arguments For Universal School Choice:

State Representative Lupe Diaz (R-Hereford) insisted that Democrats’ arguments about the harm of school choice couldn’t be true based on the longevity and successes of school choice in Arizona’s history.

“If this program causes so much heartache and blows up public schools, then it wouldn’t have the longevity it has now,” asserted Diaz.

State Representative Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix) said she would’ve loved to have school choice options like this growing up, and asserted that it was a good thing that children could use ESA dollars for college education as well.

“Why should we wait until higher education to allow taxpayers to utilize these public dollars for their [children’s] education?” said Bolick.

State Representative John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction) reminded the floor that K-12 spending eats up almost half of general fund money, yet Democrats argued it wasn’t enough. Fillmore also read Arizona Department of Education (ADE) data revealing the low passage rates for children in standardized testing.

“The fact of the matter is, the schools have failed us. Parents are taking their kids out because they see this failure,” said Fillmore. 

State Representative Joanne Osborne (R-Goodyear) said that every generation of her family dating back to the late 1890s graduated from Arizona’s public school systems, and that her daughter is a current public school teacher, but that those factors didn’t outweigh her care for children’s needs. 

Osborne characterized HB2853 as a win for all Arizona schoolchildren, and asserted that a majority of Arizona parents want school choice. Her remark prompted commentary from the gallery.

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

Scottsdale School Board Member Latest To Be Accused Of Violating State Laws

Scottsdale School Board Member Latest To Be Accused Of Violating State Laws

By Terri Jo Neff |

Scottsdale Unified School Board member Jann-Michael Greenburg could be removed from office for actions he undertook last year to circumvent Arizona’s Open Meeting Law, and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office does not want taxpayer funds to be spent for Greenburg’s defense.

Those are just some of the items of relief the AGO suggests in its lawsuit filed Monday against Greenburg and SUSD for alleged OML violations in August 2021 when Greenburg -then the board president- cut off speakers during Calls to the Public and barred other speakers from discussing district-related issues even though such comments must be permitted.

Records show the AGO received several complaints last summer about how the SUSD board was conducting meeting at its members were considering a mask mandate and proposed instructional model. The district later told Assistant Attorney General Michael Catlett the board was permitted to apply content-based restrictions on Call to the Public speakers.

However, Catlett’s lawsuit asks a Maricopa County judge for a judgment that Scottsdale Unified School District and Greenburg violated the OML during the cited meetings. The AGO also seeks an order prohibiting SUSD from expending any public monies for Greenburg’s legal representation, although any civil penalty ordered upon Greenburg would be paid for from the District’s general fund.

The AGO’s lawsuit makes clear that a public body is not required to offer a Call to the Public during its meetings and hearings. But if it does, there cannot be undue restrictions on what speakers can say except that the comments must address topics falling within the public body’s jurisdiction.

“Purposefully structuring a meeting so as to apply content-based restrictions on public comments addressing an issue listed on the same agenda and discussed at the same meeting transforms the public comment session into something other than an ‘open call to the public,” according to the lawsuit, which the defendants must answer within 20 days of service.

MORE ON GREENBURG

The AGO’s legal action against Greenburg and SUSD comes just weeks after Vernal Lee Crow of Glendale was sentenced for criminal violations of the state’s Conflict of Interest law while he served as vice-chair of the Arizona School Facilities Board (ASFB)

Crow was indicted in November 2021 for four alleged violations of state law in connection with votes he took part in in 2016 and 2017 despite the decision benefited himself or a family member. He later pleaded guilty to knowingly failing to disclose his association with Red Tree Consulting and failing to recuse himself from a vote in 2016 which awarded $112,000 for a repair job at a school in the Snowflake Unified School District.

As part of the deal, Red Tree Consulting was paid $12,050 of those funds. In addition, Crow pleaded guilty to knowingly failing to disclose another conflict of interest involving Red Tree Consulting which received $42,200 from a roof construction contract approved by the ASFB in 2017 for a school within the Casa Grande Union High School District. 

The Attorney General’s Office is also following a legal challenge filed by a Sierra Vista resident in February 2019 against the Cochise County board of supervisors for appointing one of the supervisors to a lucrative judicial position.

The AGO has submitted numerous briefs in the case, which is scheduled for a trial setting hearing Tuesday morning.

In the case, then-Cochise County Supervisor Pat Call was appointed to a vacancy for justice of the peace at double his county salary. Call did not cast a vote on the appointment, but he was openly involved in a decision to not seek interested applicants for the position despite the fact several were present at the meeting.

Call also took part in an executive session prior to being nominated immediately after the supervisors resumed the public portion of their meeting.

In a rare move, the Greenlee County judge hearing the case at the request of Cochise County’s presiding judge disclosed the normally secret minutes of that executive session. The judge noted “justice so demands” the release.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled last fall that the local resident can sue Call and the other two Cochise County supervisors -Ann English and Peggy Judd- for alleged OML violations. In addition, Chief Justice Robert Brutinel wrote that as a county resident and constituent of the board of supervisors, the resident “has an interest in protecting against self-dealing by Board members.”

It is expected that any trial will not occur until early 2023. English and Judd remain on the county board, although the lawsuit seeks to have them removed from office.

Call completed his term as justice of the peace at the end of 2020. He did not run for the office in the 2020 General Election.

Judge Rejects Mother’s Request To Dismiss Lawsuit By Scottsdale Unified School Board Member’s Father

Judge Rejects Mother’s Request To Dismiss Lawsuit By Scottsdale Unified School Board Member’s Father

By Corinne Murdock |

On Thursday, a district court judge denied a mother’s motion to dismiss in a lawsuit filed against her by the creator of a dossier on parents who opposed his son’s tenure as school board president. The mother leaked the dossier, located on a Google Drive, to local reporters after noticing the URL in pictures sent to her by the school board president.

Mark Greenburg — father of the former board president of Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) who had access to the dossier, Jann-Michael Greenburg — sued SUSD parents Amanda and Daniel Wray for allegedly violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a federal law on unauthorized computer access. The Wrays countered by filing an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss, which claims that a lawsuit is filed strategically to prevent public participation. Judge Douglas Rayes, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, denied the Wrays’ motion to dismiss.

Rayes said his decision was a “close call.” He acknowledged that the elder Greenburg lacked a password protection on the Google Drive, therefore making it accessible to anyone with its link. However, Rayes agreed with the elder Greenburg’s argument that this lack of security didn’t render the Google Drive dossier open to the public, and that Wray’s inadvertent discovery of the URL didn’t give her authorization to access the dossier. 

The Rayes declared that the elder Greenburg “sufficiently plead the elements of a violation” of the CFAA. He established a scheduling conference on July 7 at 11 am, with a deadline for a revised proposed discovery plan on June 30.

Wray deferred to her counsel for comment.

In a statement to AZ Free News, Harmeet Dhillon — the managing partner of Dhillon Law Group representing Wray — clarified that the judge’s decision only reflected Greenburg’s allegations and didn’t constitute Rayes’ final decision on the case.  

“A motion to dismiss is typically made at the outset of most cases in federal court, and it is a test not of the facts of the case, but rather of the plaintiff’s allegations,” said Dhillon. “While we respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling and believe the law requires dismissal at this stage, we look forward to the discovery phase of the lawsuit and to establishing the actual facts in this case.”

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

Arizona GOP Lawmakers Move to Outlaw Drag Shows for Kids

Arizona GOP Lawmakers Move to Outlaw Drag Shows for Kids

By Corinne Murdock |

As national attention focuses on children’s exposure to Pride Month festivities, Arizona’s Republican lawmakers pledged on Tuesday to craft legislation outlawing minor attendance at drag shows.

In a joint statement, the Senate Majority team condemned the sexualization and grooming of children through drag shows:

“One of the reasons why we were elected as lawmakers by our constituents was to protect family values. If men want to dress as women, and if adults want to participate in watching these hyper-sexualized performances, they have the freedom to do so. It crosses the line when kids are subjected to these drag shows. This ignorance by public and private sectors promoting this behavior sends a message of complete and utter perversion that can have detrimental impacts on the social and emotional development of our children. We will be damned if we won’t fight like hell to protect the most innocent from these horrifying and disturbing trends that are spreading across the nation now that extremist Democrats are currently in control of our federal government.”

The Senate Majority press release noted that they were working alongside several other, unnamed states to craft the legislation. The press release lamented that children were being exposed to sexual perversion.

Arizona has had its share of LGBTQ+-related pedophilia incidents. Just last month, a Tucson Magnet High School counselor who organized a drag show for high schoolers was arrested for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student. The Senate Majority team called out this incident, arguing that nondiscrimination policies were a slippery slope that had led to total disregard for morals and values.

“Policies of ‘nondiscrimination regarding gender expression and sexual orientation’ are sending a message to society that we should disregard morals and values just to normalize these unscientific, broad, ill-defined and subjective terms, which set a dangerous precedent for our children that are too young to be exposed to such concepts,” wrote the team. 

Earlier this month, children were bore witness to the Heard Museum in Phoenix’s first-ever drag show. That incident was also acknowledged by the Senate Majority team.

“Performers were seen dressed in scantily clad attire while carrying out provocative dance moves that left little to the imagination as youngsters watched,” asserted the team. 

In apparent response to the Senate Majority pledge to outlaw drag shows for minors, State Representative Andrés Cano (D-Tucson) suggested that the state legislature hold a drag show. He has not acknowledged the arrest of the high school counselor in his district.

State Representative Jennifer Longdon (D-Phoenix) claimed that gun shows were more harmful to children than drag shows.

“As others have said, gun shows are far more harmful for your kids than drag shows,” wrote Longdon. “Also, I LOVE drag queen story time!!!”

Research has linked early exposure to sexually explicit material with risky sexual behaviors, intimacy disorders, sexual violence and misconduct, and sexual deviancy. Most research on firearm exposure focuses on the effects and likelihood of gun violence, and not witnessing the legal use of a firearm.

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