‘Empower’ hotline by Arizona Dept. of Education dealing with prank calls in first week

Sifting through the call volume, Superintendent Tom Horne said it’s mostly been prank calls so far.
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 3:53 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 16, 2023 at 5:44 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s been one week since the Department of Education launched the “Empower” hotline. It’s been controversial from day one, as the Superintendent said it’s meant to report inappropriate school lessons, including critical race theory.

The department said it’s getting a ton of use, but it hasn’t come without its problems. Sifting through the call volume, Superintendent Tom Horne said it’s mostly been prank calls so far. “We’ve had, I think 2,000 emails and maybe 600 calls. We’ve gotten a lot of crank calls,” said Horne. “The number is large right now. It’ll probably taper off over time.”

He said that wouldn’t deter them from keeping the line in use. Horne said two staff members are sorting through the calls, and two investigators are working on credible leads. He said they’ve already turned a sexual misconduct allegation over to the police.

But the department confirmed they do not save these calls and recordings after they come in, prompting Arizona’s Family to ask how they properly investigate them rather than with the school.

“Is that school though then having to believe you guys word of mouth as to what that call was about rather than hearing it themselves?” asked reporter Briana Whitney. “I don’t think the call matters. What matters is, is there a serious problem? And then it’s the problem you’re dealing with not the call. The call doesn’t matter,” said Horne.

While Arizona’s Family has no evidence critical race theory is being taught in K-12 schools. Horne claimed he knows it is, and concerns from parents about topics like that prompted him to set up the hotline. “Some people have said well, it’ll have a chilling effect. Well, if it has a chilling effect on teachers who use their captive audience to push their personal ideology, that’s good thing,” said Horne.

Horne wouldn’t say the exact number of investigations they have open right now but did tell us they haven’t gone out to any schools about them so far because they’re still working to determine if they’re credible.