Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) Governing Board member Lindsay Love won’t be seeking re-election this coming year. The freshman board member decided one term was enough after what will be four years of escalating tensions between the board and parents. During her tenure, Love was integral to mounting divisiveness and controversy between parents and the board with her advocacy for social justice agendas such as comprehensive sex education and equity initiatives aligned with Critical Race Theory.
In a Halloween interview with 12 News to explain why her first term at CUSD will be her last, Love remarked on the tensions between her and the community. She followed that observation with a comment that she was the first woman of color and Democrat to join the board, though CUSD Board members are presented as nonpartisan.
Love claimed that she arrived as an answer to the “high profile” incidents of racism in CUSD when she ran in 2018. In January of that year, a Snapchat video of San Tan Junior High students chanting a song that included racial slurs circulated. Along with that controversial Snapchat video, CUSD parents alleged that their students were experiencing racist bullying.
Upon Love’s arrival to the board in 2019, her social justice agendas incited controversies of their own. Concerned parents and community members such as Not In Our Schools began documenting Love’s policy approaches – especially her connection to Planned Parenthood. Love’s sister, Chris Love, chairs the board of Planned Parenthood Advocates Arizona, the advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood Arizona.
Love has advocated for more expansive K-12 sex education, pushing back against CUSD’s leading with an abstinence-focused approach. Her sister also disagrees with abstinence. In a profile with Emerge America, Love explained that her sister urged her to run for the CUSD board and emphasized the importance of swapping abstinence-only education for a “comprehensive” sex education.
“Our children deserve medically-accurate and age appropriate comprehensive sex education because abstinence-only education has done little to reduce the teen pregnancy rate in Arizona which is higher than the national average,” said Love.
Love has received help from her sister in other ways. During a board meeting last January, her sister led a group that shouted down the board for not allowing more public comment on the topic of revising sex education.
The Love sisters are similar in many regards, including their predilection for embracing controversy. Chris Love made light of her use of dismembered baby doll parts for her “spooky” Christmas tree. She later tweeted that she appreciated the work of the Texas Satanic Temple for their activism to reverse Texas’s abortion law.
“A tribute to the other Love sister – Courtney Love – or the anti-abortion trolls. You pick. Still, these are getting spooked up and placed on the Halloween tree! I’ll write the headline for you. ‘Chandler School Board member dismembers Black babies for Satanic abortion tree,’” wrote Chris. “The white dolls will be ready tomorrow. I’m equal opportunity for #SpookySzn.”
“Before the antis get their panties in a bunch, I absolutely appreciate the abortion rights work of @satanic_temple_ . Have y’all even seen my #TrickOrTree?” wrote Chris.
Even with parental pushback on certain subjects, Lindsay Love has consistently doubled down throughout her tenure. In terms of her equity initiatives harmonious with Critical Race Theory concepts, Love has insisted that schools have been “built off of white supremacy” and that not seeing students for their color harms students. She’s also supported efforts to have teachers acknowledge their “unconscious bias” while students explore their racial and ethnic identities.
In an argument for a revised history that would offer a purportedly more accurate account of the harms done to minorities and oppressed groups, Love claimed that Critical Race Theory isn’t being taught in schools and that the concern for it was manufactured by parents wanting to protect white children.
“These school board meeting takeovers are manufactured by people who are afraid of the impact of our full and accurate history on white children,” wrote Love.
A little over a year ago, Love deleted a controversial Twitter account after tweeting that good manners were white supremacy.
“Hey guys! Politeness is white supremacy. Every time you prioritize politeness and civility over everything in a conversation, you are complicit in upholding white supremacy. All that to say, DISRUPT,” wrote Love.
As reported by Arizona Daily Independent, Love also likened conservative black radio host James T. Harris to a “house slave” and insisted he suffered from “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” for his differing political views. These remarks also appeared in the “Community Love” group.
Amid the surge of parent demands for curriculum reform and transparency, as well as ending mask mandates, Love shared a controversial Politico opinion piece in September titled, “The Dangerous Legal Illusion of ‘Parental Rights.’” Love posted that in her community group page for CUSD community members and affiliates, “Community Love.” In her post, Love quoted the following from the opinion piece:
“When it comes to society’s interest in protecting children, the legal precedent is unambiguous: The rights of their parents come second. Parents do have the freedom to direct the health care and education of their children, but these rights are not unlimited. As the Supreme Court said in Prince v. Massachusetts, parents are not free ‘to make martyrs of their children’ by putting them in harm’s way. Governments can and do limit parents’ discretion with the goal of protecting the health, safety and welfare of children. One example is child car seat requirements, which exist in all 50 states. Every state also has a law authorizing the government to intervene when parents abuse or neglect their children.
All 50 states also have the power to limit parental discretion to protect other children. For instance, schools and day care facilities are heavily regulated by local, state and federal laws to make sure that they are safe. Children who attend school are required to be immunized in all 50 states. These requirements have been upheld by numerous courts, including the Supreme Court. Schools also prohibit parents from sending children to school when they are sick, and a federal appeals court held that unimmunized children could be excluded from school during “an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease.” Given these legal precedents, it is clear that schools and day care facilities can require masks as a condition of attendance.” (emphasis added)
Love’s approach to governance hasn’t been complemented by the district’s efforts, either. CUSD made national news last month after it was discovered that the district coordinated with Chandler Police Department (CPD) to surveil and act against parents who protested masking requirements.
Love’s decision to leave after only one term is unusual. Former Arizona Superintendent Diane Douglas told AZ Free News that she’s observed many school board members staying on for three or more terms, because the first term is more of a learning curve.
“The first term is generally a learning curve. It needs to be a pretty quick one. At eight years you really hit your stride and get good at understanding. After twelve years – anyone that stays any longer it becomes more about the person than the community. It’s really for the wrong reasons after that,” stated Douglas.
Douglas added that she hopes Love’s replacement would better represent constituent interests.
“I would hope that the community would consider candidates that would be more reflective of the community itself. It doesn’t seem like she has been,” remarked Douglas.
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.
Both Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) and Tanque Verde Unified School District (TVUSD) declined to join the growing list of schools reinstating a mask mandate. For now, masks will remain optional at both districts.
During special meetings on Thursday devoted solely to COVID-19 mitigation strategies, the governing boards of CUSD and TVUSD both voted against reinstating a mask mandate.
For CUSD, the vote was close: 3 to 2. Board members Lara Bruner and Lindsay Love both voted in favor of restoring a mask mandate. For TVUSD, the board was decisively against reinstating a mask mandate: 4 to 1. Only board member Vieri Tenuta voted yes.
The legislature passed a law in June intending to ban mask mandates in schools for the summer and fall school years. Those schools reinstating their mask mandates have argued that the ban doesn’t apply until September 29. That’s the date that a judge has ruled the state’s mask mandate ban was active, citing Arizona law prohibiting statutes from taking effect until 90 days after a legislative session ends.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner issued the ruling in the case of a biology teacher challenging Phoenix Union High School District’s (PXU) mask mandate.
The CUSD Governing Board attached a copy of the PXU ruling for consideration. They also included several announcements on education funding from Governor Doug Ducey – one of which concerned the $163 million in grants only available to schools that continue in-person learning for the rest of the year and follow all state laws.
By that latter stipulation, Ducey meant the mask mandate ban he signed into law in June. The governor and other supporters argue that the law took effect months ago based on a retroactivity clause.
Approximately 20 other districts, private schools, charter schools, and Montessori schools have reinstated mask mandates.
The school districts are: Alhambra Elementary School District, Amphitheater School District, Catalina Foothills School District, Creighton School District, Flagstaff Unified School District, Glendale Elementary School District, Kyrene School District, Littleton Elementary School District, Madison School District, Miami Unified School District, Nogales Unified School District, Osborn School District, Peoria Unified School District, Phoenix Elementary School District, Phoenix Union High School District, Roosevelt Elementary School District, Tucson Unified School District, and Washington Elementary School District.
Private schools requiring masks are Brophy College Preparatory and Salpointe Catholic High School, whereas charter schools requiring masks are Arizona School for the Art and Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy. The two Montessori schools requiring masks currently are Haven Montessori School and Khalsa Montessori School.
At least one other school district will decide on reinstating a mask mandate Friday – Marana Unified School District (MUSD). The district also cited Judge Warner’s recent ruling as rationale for considering the matter of restoring mask mandates.