An outspoken Arizona superintendent’s anti-woke crusade appears to be falling apart, with his snitch hotline overrun by crank calls and his claims of inappropriate classroom teachings refuted by teachers and education officials who say it’s total BS.
On Thursday, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne held a press conference to outline the progress of an “Empower Hotline” that the state Department of Education launched in March, local outlet 12 News NBC Phoenix reported. The hotline was established so parents and teachers could flag “inappropriate content being taught that detracts from teaching academic standards” including content about race, gender ideology or inappropriate sexual content,” a March press release said.
But Horne conceded Thursday that the hotline had instead been inundated with nearly 30,000 prank phone calls and emails, and there was just one part-time DoE staffer tasked with going through them all. He wouldn’t go into detail about how many calls received on the hotline were of legitimate concern, 12 News reported.
Horne claimed he received tips through the hotline that alerted him of Critical Race Theory being taught during professional development courses for teachers, that students were being called different names and pronouns without their parents’ consent, and that children were given emancipation papers during LGBTQ+ group meetings, CBS 5 Phoenix reported.
“As it turns out, we…got some communication from [Mesa Unified District] teachers who observed things they think we should know about,” Horne said.
He showed a large powerpoint presentation with text from a book that he said was part of teachers’ professional development. “Black, Indigenous, people of color are most vulnerable due to living under a system of white supremacy,” the excerpt said.
“Now, to say that the United States is a system of white supremacy is an outrageous statement,” Horne said.
However, a Mesa teacher told CBS 5 that neither they nor their colleagues had ever seen the textbook passage Horne referenced during the press conference.
Horne also placed blame on Catalina Foothills schools for keeping an alleged list of students’ pronouns, but the district’s spokesperson told AZ Central that the whole concept was “news” to them.
Horne also referenced an LGBTQ+ club in Chandler Public Schools that broke an unspecified state law, but the district’s communications spokesperson basically said they had no idea what the superintendent was talking about.
“The district has not received information nor communication on this matter from the Arizona Department of Education,” Chandler Unified School District Executive Director for Marketing and Communications Stephanie Ingersoll told 12 News.
Meanwhile, Arizona Education Association President Marisol Garcia said the superintendent “continues to be an embarrassment to the state of Arizona.”
“Instead of making any actual effort to promote and elevate our public schools, his office is keeping busy fielding prank calls (thirty thousand, at last count!) and pursuing random allegations and complaints, some of them years old. Arizona deserves so much better,” she said, CBS 5 reported.
The Arizona Department of Education did not immediately return The Daily Beast’s requests for comment Friday.
The Daily Beast