Chandler Unified School District Appears to Coordinate With Police to Spy On, Arrest Unmasked Parents, Email Records Show
By Corinne Murdock |
Chandler Police Department (CPD) appeared to coordinate with Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) in surveilling and acting against parents that protested masking. The coordination was evident as far back as April, according to emails between CUSD Director of Safety and Security Tanya Smith and CPD Sergeant Greg Howarth. In the series of emails published by the blog site Not In Our Schools, Howarth passed on information about the parents’ activities and plans, gathered from posts made in private Facebook groups and other, unspecified sites.
In one of the earliest obtained emails from April, Howarth offers suggestions to Smith for how CUSD should handle parents opposed to masks.
Tanya, Hello. I am anticipating based off my Intel from various social media platforms that we will have a group again of protestors (anti-mask). I found what I call there [sic] game plan where they are talking about walking into the lobby with the mask on then they want to remove it. If told to put it back on, some will and some will force you to have them leave. The other chatter is they will put the mask back on but as they are lead into the board room they will take it off and talk at the podium. With that being said, have 4 additional officers we need to use besides […] who comes in at 6:30 p.m. The 4 SRO’s and myself with start at 5:00 p.m. and remain until they have cleared out to 8:00 to 8:30ish. We modify that time period as needed since this is a fluid and evolving situation.
These are my suggestions only and more food for thought as you get the [sic] make the final call on this:
- One (1) Security Officer and two SRO’s at the north gate.
- The security officer at the north gate will have to call the person to the gate who wants to speak and has filled out the blue card.
- The security officer will instruct the person that they must have a mask on and put it on as they are walking through the gate and into the lobby area. In addition, they must be told the mask has to be worn at all times.
- If they claim they have a medical condition, according to ADA rules and your attorneys, they can wear a mask and be brought inside straight to the podium where if you allow them to lower their mouth, speak, and then once done pull the mask up and be escorted out of the back like we talked about.
- I will put (1) SRO by the double doors leading into the lobby area.
- I will put (1) SRO inside the board room to ensure everything goes smooth. [sic] This is an option if you want but recommended.
NOTE: You might want to consider attaching a document (stapled) to the blue card with instructions about masks being required at all times. In addition, masks will not be provided to anyone. If they do not have a mask they can fill out a blue card and a staff member will read it to the board, but they will not be allowed in since they have no mask. If someone claims they have a medical condition, pull them off to the side and have them fill out a blue card, take the blue card and then when you ready for them to speak, you must have them walk from the gate directly inside and be the next person to speak so they are not waiting in the lobby pulling the mask down on us. The goal is to do our best to meet their needs if we can and again this is based off of what you want. We are only assisting to keep the peace and not enforce the mask issue. The mask issue as you know has to be addressed by you and your staff. If someone doesn’t comply and you want them removed from the property let us know. If they fail to leave let us know that you want them trespassed and we can do that.… I believe this is an excellent action plan and will result in a successful outcome for all. (emphasis added)
At least one parent was arrested at a June meeting.
Smith revealed in another email that CPD’s intelligence officers had a dossier of sorts on certain parent groups protesting CUSD. According to available email records, Smith and Howarth coordinated to address two separate meetings: one in May, and one in June.
“[Howarth and I] spoke yesterday against after he sent the email. CPD Intel is relaying details on methods the group will be using tonight. They do plan to disrupt. Please review [and] forward for more suggestions and information from CPD,” wrote Smith. “We also discussed that Ms. Mozden may want to be prepared to cut the mic for anybody that follows through with removing their mask. Do we want to offer for a masked person to read the public comment for the people that refuse or claim a medical exemption?”
Email records also reveal that the Howarth’s dossier on the parents consisted of information from the left-leaning nonprofit legal advocacy organization Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), as well as mainstream news coverage. SPLC’s largest shareholders are Vanguard followed by BlackRock. AZ Central was cited the most: they are owned by Gannett, whose greatest owners are also BlackRock and VanGuard. BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager, while Vanguard is one of the world’s largest.
Howarth also acknowledged that they were coordinating with Smith, and that CPD’s intelligence would allow CUSD to respond accordingly to parents.
“Here are some sites for you to pass along to the Intel Unit and Lt. Salazar so whomever is coordinating and running this opp. [sic] can continue to monitor and prepare for this one. I included Tanya on this email so she can coordinate with you,” wrote Howarth. “This info will provide her the resources to review and access the situation.”
We asked CUSD why they worked with CPD to shape board policy and track parents’ online activities to premeditatively remove them or arrest them at school board meetings. In a statement to AZ Free News, CUSD asserted that our question assumed inaccurate facts and couldn’t be answered.
“We are not authorized to speak for the Chandler Police Department,” stated CUSD spokesman Terry Locke. “However, we can say that the District has not engaged in any unlawful or inappropriate activities, in collaboration with the Chandler Police Department or on its own.”
Judicial Watch, a conservative group that files and investigates open records requests, originally sued CUSD on September 14 to obtain access to these email records and others. CUSD never responded to three requests issued June 17, June 18, and August 5. According to the lawsuit, CUSD reportedly didn’t acknowledge receipt of any of those requests. The last action in that case occurred September 16, in which court records reflect that CUSD received the summons.
June 17 Records
Judicial Watch requested records on CUSD’s documents on policies, rules, directives, memos, emails, and texts addressing: compliance with public meetings proceedings, implementation of the CDC’s “limited in-person attendance,” enforcement actions regarding trespassing and assault statutes on district office property. They also requested many items related to CUSD’s June 9, 2021 governing board meeting: any attendance rosters, criteria for who would be allowed inside, and any records kept.
On June 9, the CUSD governing board opened its regular meeting with an announcement that CUSD wasn’t exploring, adapting, or implementing Critical Race Theory (CRT).
Additionally, Judicial Watch asked for a specific set of CUSD documents ranging from June 17 2019 to June 17 2021 related to contracts, policies, rules, directives, employee evaluations, memos, emails, and texts addressing wages or salaries and/or conduct standards or expectations of Smith and James. Lastly, the group requested all employment, vendor, and security contracts; memorandums of understanding; and agreements and/or authorizations pertaining to an individual named Shelby Smith and an unknown male identified using the inclusion of a picture in the court filing.
June 18 Records
A day later, Judicial Watch submitted another records request concerning a specific date range: May 1, 2020 and June 18, 2021. They requested policies, rules, directives, memos, emails, board minutes, teaching curriculum, and employee training outlines/guidelines and/or texts that included the words “CRT” and “critical race theory,” as well as its related terms: “equity,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” “inherent,” “implied,” “racism,” “reparations,” “systemic,” “bias,” “1619,” “discrimination,” “equality,” “white,” and “privilege.”
August 5 Records
Several months later, Judicial Watch followed up with another records request – a much briefer one, this time. They requested documents from January 1, 2019 to that day, August 5, 2021, concerning any trespass orders sent or served to individuals, entities, and/or groups.
That last request was accompanied with a copy of a trespass order served to a community member named Stephen Daniels. According to the order, Daniels attended the June 9, 2021 governing board meeting discussing how CUSD didn’t implement CRT. He was accused of “unsafe and disorderly conduct” such as blocking the entrance to the meeting while attempting to enter. At that time, CUSD reportedly had capacity limitations and couldn’t admit Daniels into the meeting. Daniels was removed from the meeting by CPD after refusing a request to do so from Smith.
We requested follow-up on Judicial Watch’s records request lawsuit. They didn’t respond by press time.
Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.