ARIZONA NEWS

Supt. Horne says crank call ‘idiocy’ won’t derail Arizona hotline for parent complaints

Mar 22, 2023, 2:15 PM | Updated: 2:20 pm

(Pixabay Photo)...

(Pixabay Photo)

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX – Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said Wednesday that bogus reports won’t sidetrack the hotline he created to field parent complaints about lesson material.

“I’m a trial lawyer. I can’t be intimidated by the idiocy of thinking they’re going to put a stop to us with crank calls,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show.

The Arizona Department of Education launched the Empower Hotline two weeks ago. The purpose was to give parents a way to report lessons they believe fall under the definition of critical race theory as well as material that promotes gender ideology, social emotional learning or inappropriate sexual conduct.

Parents can submit reports by calling 602-771-3500 during business hours or by emailing empower@azed.gov. The emails are subject to release as public records.

Critics say the hotline invites teacher harassment and wastes resources.

“It is a distraction when there are real issues. I mean, teachers are leaving the classroom. I don’t see what Mr. Horne is doing to solve that crisis,” Beth Lewis, executive director of public education advocacy group Save Our Schools Arizona, told the Broomhead Show in a separate interview Wednesday.

“Arizona kids need a lot more resources. We need social emotional learning — that’s one of the things that he’s asking parents to sort of snitch on.”

Last week, Horne told KTAR News the hotline had received about half a dozen complaints that were worth investigating out of about 2,000 emails and 600 calls and voicemails in the first week.

On Wednesday, he the hotline gives parents a way to communicate with his department that they didn’t have before.

“They can send as many crank calls as they want,” he said. “We’re going to ignore them. We’re going to focus on the calls that are legitimate.”

Lewis said the dearth of valid complaints supports her argument against the hotline.

“I mean, the point is to drive attacks against teachers, but the reality is that Arizona parents … love and support our teachers,” she said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.

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Supt. Horne says crank call ‘idiocy’ won’t derail Arizona hotline for parent complaints