Arizona hotline to report 'inappropriate' school lessons gets 30,000 prank calls

By Kirsten Dorman
Published: Friday, June 9, 2023 - 10:18am
Updated: Friday, June 9, 2023 - 2:19pm

Tom Horne is the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. He is standing in front of a podium at a press conference in the state education building, located in downtown Phoenix. In this photo he is speaking. Two women and a man behind stand behind.
Kirsten Dorman/KJZZ
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne addresses the media on June 8, 2023.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne earlier this year launched a hotline for parents and others to "report inappropriate public school lessons that detract from teaching academic standards."

Since then, the hotline has received a high volume of calls and tens of thousands of fake reports, Horne said Thursday.

In March, the Department of Education said the Empower Hotline was created to address concerns about lessons that "focus on race or ethnicity, rather than individuals and merit, promoting gender ideology, social emotional learning, or inappropriate sexual content." Horne also cited concerns about the teaching of "critical race theory."

“We’ve gotten 30,000 crank calls and crank emails, but this does not deter us,” Horne said.

Horne said there is no specific criteria to determine what counts as a legitimate concern. In a press conference Thursday, Horne discussed four incidents that have been flagged so far, but said he does not know how those stack up to the prank reports. Horne has not make the complaints public, nor would he say on Thursday how many of the calls or emails were legitimate.

One incident Horne mentioned, which involved a list of the pronouns students wanted to use for themselves from a principal at Orange Grove Middle School, occurred in 2021.

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.

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