Suspected Operatives of National Anti-Teacher Group Enter Ohio Schools Under False Pretenses

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Police respond to emergency situation at Lordstown High School

Similar intrusions reported in school buildings and teachers union offices across the state,

from Georgetown to Cleveland and Lordstown to Cincinnati

In Northeast Ohio an intruder entered Lordstown High School lying about her identity and why she was there, and falsely reporting that a teacher in the district had had an inappropriate physical altercation with a student. Based on the nature of her presence there and the intruder’s shifting story, the teachers speaking with her became concerned for the safety of their students and called the principal and school resource officer. When asked for identification, the woman fled the building but teachers were able to get a license plate number and alert the authorities, who later pulled the intruder over.  The Ohio Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers at the school, suspects the April 25 attack was a sting carried out by national right-wing group Project Veritas, which is known for entering union offices in an attempt to record members, and then releasing highly edited, doctored footage of the encounter to attack public schools and teachers. In this alleged incident, the driver of the intruder’s car appears to be a known Project Veritas operative, and the false claims made by the intruder match identical attacks that have been occurring nationwide.

A known operative of the group also seems to have entered a Georgetown school in southern Ohio with the same fraudulent story, lying about who she was and why she was there, and refusing to identify herself. Georgetown and Lordstown are a 4.5 hour drive apart. Under similarly false pretenses, operatives also  apparently entered a career center in northwest Ohio staffed by members of OFT's Vanguard-Sentinel local union. OFT is gathering similarly concerning stories from our members across Ohio.

"These intruders had no business entering school buildings to traumatize our educators who feared these people were there to harm students. This is an overreach and abuse by this group. These tactics demonstrate the damage, danger and fear that they are willing to create -- and now they are doing it in our school buildings," said Melissa Cropper, president of the OFT.

Operatives also interacted with people at the Cleveland Teachers Union, Cleveland Heights Teachers Union and Cincinnati Federation of Teachers offices under similarly false pretenses. The week prior, calls were made by these suspected intruders to a school in New Lebanon.

"It is unconscionable in this day and age of violent attacks on schools that these intruders would enter a school building under false pretenses in close proximity to students with fake stories of student abuse, traumatizing teachers and administrators who feared for the safety of their students," said Melissa Cropper, president of the OFT.

These are just the attacks the union has learned about to date. Information from school buildings and teachers union offices continues to come in as our teachers piece together an understanding that they were potentially targets of an orchestrated  Project Veritas attack. The American Federation of Teachers, OFT’s national union, released a statement detailing other suspected intrusions around the country.

The Lordstown incident, however, marks an escalation of Project Veritas associated operatives entering school property with a fake story of student abuse. Project Veritas was investigated by the police in 2016 when its President James O’Keefe entered a school property using a fake identity and filmed elementary school students and their teachers at an assembly. Project Veritas associated operative Marisa Jorge, who was a part of the recent wave of Project Veritas attacks in Ohio, is facing a federal lawsuit for her role in infiltrating teacher union offices in Michigan under false pretenses, including visiting classrooms with students in attendance.   

"Intruders knowingly entering our schools under false pretenses disrupts teaching and learning and could pose a danger to our students and staff"," Cropper said. "These dangerous, political tactics have no business in our school hallways and they do nothing to improve education or safety for our students.”

Project Veritas has a long history of creating false narratives using doctored videos and refusing to allow the unedited footage to be viewed. AFT has evidence of suspected intrusions on other local offices and schools around the country as well, including New York, Michigan and New Mexico. Reports of suspicious activity are filtering in from affiliates daily, and the union is ready and willing to consider all available legal action to protect its members and students.

"This is an attack on our students, our schools, and our teachers. Schools should be safe sanctuaries of teaching and learning, not partisan political battlegrounds for undercover operatives to carry out stings against teachers unions on school property. The latest suspected intrusions go way too far,” Cropper said.