Dossier on parents roils Arizona school district, leads to probe and cyberstalking claims
"Parents are rightly upset that certain data, photography and video has been collected and shared," Scottsdale Unified School District says.
A digital dossier of information portraying activist parents in a unflattering light. A school president facing a recall. A meme with a parent superimposed over a lynching photo. An investigation.
Welcome to a made-for-TV drama playing out in Arizona inside the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD), which late Friday announced it was hiring a forensic investigator to determine if school resources were used to "compile, access or modify" a private dossier on parents critical of the school board president.
The district acknowledged it was aware of allegations that the dossier may have been assembled by School Board President Jann-Michael Greenburg's father, Michael, a local activist, and some of its contents shared by the school board president.
The district "began the process of hiring an independent forensic investigator to determine if any school resources were used to compile, access or modify the private dossier allegedly created and maintained in Google drive folders by Mark Greenburg, the father of SUSD Board President Jann-Michael Greenburg, and shared by the latter," Superintendent Scott A. Menzel announced.
"It is important to emphasize the District did not create, maintain or have control over the dossier," the district said. It added, "parents are rightly upset that certain data, photography and video has been collected and shared."
The alleged dossier, which reportedly included a photo of a parent superimposed over a lynching as well as public data on other parents and surveillance data, has riled the community, generated national headlines and raised questions about possible cyberstalking.
At least one parent has filed a restraining order against the Greenburgs and explained to others how to do it. But the school board president has denied wrongdoing.
Greenburg told the Scottsdale Independent newspaper, "I categorically deny having anything to do with any of this" in a phone call with his father present, the newspaper reported. But the son also disclaimed any responsibility for his father's alleged actions and said he had been sent videos "from parents, including my own father."
Earlier Friday, School Board member Libby Hart-Wells called on the district to hold a meeting "at the earliest possible time" to demand Greenburg's resignation.
In a response to parents petitioning for Greenburg's removal, Hart-Wells wrote Friday that she shares concerns about his alleged behavior, which "has no home ... anywhere, by anyone, for any reason." She said she also asked the SUSD to allow a vote "for new board members" at the meeting.
The investigation is the latest twist in an ongoing battle between the Greenburgs and a school reform-focused parent group called the Community Advocacy Network (CAN).
When the alleged dossier first surfaced, the district's initial response left parents outraged.
While the existence of the Google Drive found on the younger Greenburg's computer "may raise concern, such activities are not within the purview of the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) to control," it told them in a letter Wednesday.
Parents say they learned about the drive in August after Greenburg, who is running for reelection next year, accidentally included its Web address in a screenshot to a parent he accused of anti-Semitism based on her Facebook comment.
It included not only extensive documentation of posts from CAN's Facebook group, but also videos parents believe may have been taken surreptitiously, local news media have reported. Greenburg and his father live together and share a computer.
State Rep. Jake Hoffman told the Arizona Sun Times that Greenburg "should resign in disgrace and be prosecuted for abuse of power" if the allegations are proven. "It is unacceptable and anti-American to compile dossiers on your political enemies, especially when those so-called enemies are the very people you were elected to serve."
Rep. Joseph Chaplik, a Scottsdale parent, agreed. "The evidence of his cyber-stalking and spreading of an enemies list should be the last straw for his fellow board members, and I expect them to join me in this call," he told Fox News.
Just the News emailed Jann-Michael Greenburg Friday afternoon at his district address, which automatically responded "Recipient address rejected: Access denied." A petition demanding his removal from the board claims to have been signed 700 times.