Fulfilling a campaign promise, the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne, officially launched a tip line for parents to report “inappropriate” teaching in the classroom. The tip line, called the Empower Hotline, was lauded on the state’s Department of Education website.
The state agency’s website said the tip line allows for the reporting “about inappropriate lessons that detract from teaching academic standards such as those that focus on race or ethnicity, rather than individuals and merit, promoting gender ideology, social-emotional learning, or inappropriate sexual content.” In other words, it would allow parents to report any divisive topics that were taught in the classroom.
Horne, a Republican, campaigned to combat Critical Race Theory and he defeated the Democratic incumbent last fall. In a statement, Horne said, “We want to be sure we get rid of distractions and that teachers are teaching the academics bell to bell.” He said that not only is Critical Race Theory is inappropriate, but also the teaching method called “Social Emotional Learning” (called SEL) and any age-inappropriate teachings about sexuality.
As Accuracy in Academia reported previously, SEL is a method where teachers, therapists, and counselors, emphasize mental health, social, and emotional learning and it apparently has been done without prior parental approval or without proper explanation to parents. One of the main developers of SEL’s is the group CASEL, a non-profit organization. After the George Floyd-spurred riots in summer 2020, the organization updated its website to define SEL’s as “a lever for equity,” a left-wing or progressive buzzword.
But at least one teachers’ union disagreed with the tip line. Tucson Educators Association President Margaret Chaney said it will “try to strike fear in the hearts of teachers or in the classrooms.” Chaney added, “It very much sounds like a witch hunt.” Chaney claimed that it could create “more of a rift” between teachers and parents and that it could dampen teacher retention or recruitment.
The Tucson Educators Association is an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA), which is a left-wing teachers’ union that promoted pro-Black Lives Matter content last month (among other politicized content).
Horne acknowledged that there is a possibility for false charges, but it is important for parents to email or call the tip line because it “gives us a means of communication for people to let us know.” He emphasized that if teachers teach the material, “they have nothing to worry about.”
It appears that Horne’s move aligns with the nationwide, parent-led changes in public education, such as electing new school board members and politicians who ran on platforms promising to root out Critical Race Theory. Yet teachers’ unions continue to ignore the warning signs and double down on their pro-Critical Race Theory rhetoric and stance.