Teachers Association paid researcher to ‘dig for dirt’ on parents’ groups who opposed COVID shutdowns, emails show

A California Teachers Association (CTA) research assistant’s emails have surfaced that allegedly show that she was paid to dig for dirt on parents’ groups who advocated for the reopening of schools during the pandemic.

The union was evidently suspicious that parents were being “used toward a larger goal to disrupt, destabilize and ‘burn down’ public schools.”

In March 2021, the Parents Association, a group of parents at multiple school districts in Northern San Diego County, successfully sued the state of California forcing it to reopen schools.

The research assistant’s name is Ann Swinburn and she is a veteran union operative. She emailed members of a parent group in San Diego in April 2021 in a purported effort to better understand why they were demanding a return to in-classroom teaching, according to the Daily Mail.

She told the parents that she was “doing some research into the various ‘reopen’ groups around the state.”

During a flurry of email exchanges, one of the parties accidentally CC’d a principal within the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD), which was sued by its local union in December 2020 to keep it closed. Someone apparently suggested the principal should delete the email after realizing their mistake. He did not do so.

Activist group Reopen California Schools published the emails online. This was during the period that teachers’ unions said it was unsafe for schools to reopen due to COVID and parents were demanding that their children be allowed to go back to school.

Swinburn attempted to schedule a Zoom meeting with parents to find out why they wanted an end to remote learning. Whether she actually obtained any useful information is unclear.

One of the founders of the Parents Association in San Diego named Allison Stratton filed a request to obtain the emails. She told Fox News that she believed they showed the union was spying on parents.

(Video Credit: Boris Khamishon)

“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 asserted. “So, it’s not a surprise. They were working as hard as they could against parents who wanted school reopened.”

Swinburn’s tweets on the subject matter came from a now-deleted account. They reportedly showed she was highly suspicious concerning the motivations of parents demanding classrooms reopen and insinuated they were being funded by right-wing activists.

“In case anyone was still wondering … the total amount of dark-money collected since we were founded in June of 2020 is a whopping $0,” Reopen California Schools tweeted.

“To suggest us parents were part of some dark-money conspiracy is not only absurd and insulting but shows how far removed the California Teachers Association’s priorities are from serving students and their families,” founder Jonathan Zachreson also wrote in an email.

“The sudden interest in school boards is not an organic grassroots movement of angry parents. It is an effort orchestrated by seasoned right-wing political operatives who have formed a constellation of well-funded groups,” journalist Judd Legum tweeted in October 2021

That unfounded contention was retweeted by Swinburn.

Lance Christian, who is currently running for election as the California superintendent of public instruction slammed Swinburn’s actions and comments.

“Conducting opposition research is a common practice in political campaigns,” he told Fox News in an interview. “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.”

“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,” Christian added.

A recent government study shows that school closures during the pandemic had a negative impact on children’s progress in math and reading.

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