The largest teachers’ union in California apparently conducted political opposition research on parents who fought and won a legal battle to keep their local schools open, newly surfaced emails suggest.
California Teachers Association (CTA), a labor union boasting a membership of 310,000, advocated keeping schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In December 2020, it demanded that three school districts of North San Diego County be banned from implementing their reopening plans, so long as the county remained in the high-risk “purple tier.” It also called on state lawmakers, demanding that no school in purple tier counties be allowed to reopen or even stay open.
The CTA’s effort was undermined in March 2021, when a judge ruled in favor of parents from five school districts across the North County, who sued California Gov. Gavin Newsom to block “arbitrary” rules that would prevent those districts from reopening for in-person instruction.
Just a month after the ruling, the CTA had a researcher dedicated to uncovering “some of the ideological leaning of groups that are funding the reopen lawsuits,” according to emails obtained through a public record request and posted to Twitter by Reopen California Schools.
🚨 BOMBSHELL 🚨
Newly PRA’d emails show @WeAreCTA conducted opposition research on school reopening parent groups during the school shutdowns in CA.
Then after a principal was accidentally CC’d, the “damage control” was asking him to illegally delete the email.
— Reopen California Schools (@ReopenCASchools) September 5, 2022
Ann Swinburn, a strategic research specialist working for the CTA, appeared to be interested in whether parent groups suing to keep schools open were connected to or funded by right-wing political groups.
Her email exchanges with a group of anonymous pro-lockdown activists suggest that she had a particular interest in Parent Association, a California-based nonprofit organization that advocates against mask and vaccine mandates.
At one point, an activist accidentally included in their communication a principal within the San Diego Union High School District, a target of CTA’s failed attempt to block its reopening.
The email thread then turned into a conversation about “damage control,” which involves asking the principal to illegally delete the message.
“I think you accidentally included Adam Camacho on your reply,” one email reads. “Not sure if we need to do any damage control.”
“I don’t think there will be an issue,” another person wrote in response. “Unless someone does a record request for his work email.”
“Do you know him [Adam Camacho] well enough to delete and disregard???? The last thing I want is for him to contact Ann, since I included all her emails in the string,” another wrote.
‘Politically Target Moms and Dads’
Lance Christensen, a candidate for California’s school chief race, condemned the CTA’s “spying” behavior on parents who wanted schools to reopen.
“Conducting opposition research is a common practice in political campaigns. But to have the teachers’ union dedicate personnel to politically target moms and dads protecting their own children and expressing their first amendment rights is both startling and disgusting,” Christensen wrote on Twitter.
“Entrenched special interests have used their war chests over the last two and a half years to intimidate and threaten anyone who dares to challenge their ineffective reign over public education. This must end.”
The CTA didn’t respond to a request for comments regarding the matter.