A simple clerical error confirmed suspicions that a California teachers’ union was spying on parents who simply wanted their kids to return to school.
In the wake of several contentious battles over school reopening during the pandemic in the San Dieguito Union High School District, a records request for district emails uncovered an email chain revealing how the California Teachers Association (CTA) was doing “research” on “groups that are funding the reopen lawsuits.”
That “research” was spearheaded by CTA member Ann Swinburn, who emailed a parent arm of the local union asking what information they had on the members of the “Parents Association,” a group of local parents who had successfully sued the state in March of 2021 to reopen schools after the CTA filed a suit four months earlier to keep schools closed.
When the request from Swinburn went out to the parent arm of the local union, one member accidentally copied the wrong “Adam” into the email chain. The new recipient was Adam Camacho, a principal within the district. With the email chain now in a district employee’s inbox, it was accessible to the public via a records request.
Subsequent emails reveal that one member, named Michele, realized the mistake, and quickly turned the conversation to “damage control.”
Holly Butte, the member who mistakenly included the principal, replied, “I don’t think there will be an issue. Unless someone does a record request for his work email.”
Michele then seems to suggest asking the principal to illegally delete the email to cover the group’s tracks. “The last thing I want is for him to contact Ann [Swinburn] since I included all her emails in the string,” she explained.
But Camacho did not delete the email, and a Public Records Act request that the group feared was in fact filed by Allison Stratton, a founding member of the Parents Association. Stratton was able to obtain the emails and told Fox News that the information confirmed what her group had known for a while.
“We already suspected [it] because we see the same people show up at every school board meeting saying the same things, echoing what the union is saying,” Stratton said. “So, it’s not a surprise. They were working as hard as they could against parents who wanted school reopened.”
The Twitter account Reopen California Schools released screenshots of the string of emails on Monday, and Swinburn’s Twitter profile quickly changed to “private.” By the end of Tuesday, the account was deleted.
Lance Christensen, a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction in California, released a statement on Tuesday about the email revelations.
“School closures demanded by these unions have single handedly resulted in decades of learning loss, declining public school enrollment, and the lowest literacy rate in the nation,” he said. “The good teachers in California want to focus on reading and writing, not cloak and dagger operations that further divide our communities.”
Christensen also encouraged teachers to leave the union over such unethical behavior.
“Teachers who no longer wish to belong to a militant and subversive organization have the right and ethical duty to leave their union under the Janus Supreme Court decision,” he said. “They can save their money, their sanity and the children they love to teach by doing so.”