Shortly after parents in California sued the state to reopen schools for their children to attend in-person learning, a California teachers union conducted opposition research on those parents.
April 2021 emails, obtained by the Parent Association via open-records requests and shared in tweets by Reopen California Schools, show Ann Swinburn, a strategic research specialist at the California Teachers Association, asking lockdown activists for information about “various ‘reopen’ groups around the state.”
Swinburn specifically expressed interest in Parent Association, the group that believes “Parents are the best advocates for students” and strongly advocated for the reopening of schools during the state’s Covid-19 panic.
As noted by Reopen California Schools, unions sued the San Dieguito Union High School District to keep schools closed nearly a year into the pandemic, but it was parents in North County who “successfully sued” to open schools in the spring of 2021.
Swinburn connected with several people who expressed interest in “uncovering some of the ideological leaning of groups that are funding the reopen lawsuits.”
At one point, activists in the email exchange accidentally included one of the district’s principals in their communication. The email thread quickly turned into a conversation about “damage control” and whether the principal would illegally delete any evidence that parents were being targeted for wanting their children to learn in person.
Allison Stratton — Parent Association co-founder, director of San Dieguito Union High School District, and one of the parents who signed onto a reopening lawsuit — told The Federalist that these activists contacted by Swinburn were known for working with the California Public Department of Health to cater to teachers unions wanting to keep kids at home.
“[The unions] don’t want to see parents organizing against them,” Stratton said. “They have their union shills, the groups that they’re used to working with. In fact, I believe it’s straight out of their playbook that they tell their local unions to find like-minded parents to do a lot of their work for them. They call them out of the PTAs, usually.”
It’s been more than a year since Swinburn’s emails with activists, but Stratton said the California Teachers Association’s pawns haven’t stopped pushing the unions’ agenda in schools.
“Now their game is to drive independent trustees off the board,” Stratton explained, pointing to the coordinated effort to recall Michael Allman over allegations of transphobia.
The California Teachers Association did not respond to The Federalist’s questions about Swinburn’s exchange and what the association planned to do with the information it obtained about concerned parents.
Old tweets, however, now hidden behind Swinburn’s private Twitter account, show the researcher’s contempt for parents who want a say in their children’s education. They also showcase her suspicion that grassroots parent movements are actually “an effort orchestrated by seasoned right-wing political operatives.”
Lance Christensen, a candidate running for superintendent of public instruction, condemned the California Teachers Association’s actions and lack of transparency.
“The California Teachers Association has shown itself to be more of a spy agency than an advocate for kids and parents,” Christensen told The Federalist.
The California Teachers Association is not the only union guilty of singling out outspoken parents. CFT — an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, which is headed by Randi Weingarten — and United Teachers Los Angeles, its sister union, have also allegedly weaponized research against parents who are in favor of reopening schools and spoke to the media.
The Biden administration has also admitted to colluding with the National School Boards Association to silence parents who want a say in how their children are educated.