Project Veritas attempts sting operation at Lordstown schools


By Justin Wier

jwier@vindy.com

LORDSTOWN

Project Veritas – a conservative group that has targeted Planned Parenthood, National Public Radio and The Washington Post through controversial sting operations – appears to have teachers unions in its sights.

Last week a woman associated with the group entered Lordstown High School under false pretenses, school and police officials said.

Ermine Desir arrived at the high school April 25 identifying herself as a teacher and asked to speak to a union representative, police said.

She told the union representative her name was Crystal and a friend heard a teacher went too far with physical contact with a Lords- town student, according to the police report.

The union representative became suspicious. When asked for her identification, the school’s principal told police Desir said it was in her car, left to get it and did not return.

Police chief Brent Milhoan pulled a car over with Desir and Ryan Lopez, both from New York, who identified themselves as journalists working for Project Veritas.

A representative for the company told police they were investigating a tip that a teacher may have had inappropriate contact with a student, according to the report.

Desir told police she was satisfied with the union’s answers.

Lordstown Schools Superintendent Terry Armstrong called the incident a “deceitful intrusion” into the school and said the woman had no legitimate reason to be on school property.

“The effort to smear the reputation of hard-working and dedicated staff at any school district in such a deceitful manner is disruptive and a violation of our schools,” Armstrong said.

A Lordstown police officer met with a Newton Falls Municipal Court prosecutor who decided he could not press charges against Desir. The prosecutor said Desir could argue she was invited into the school and she left when asked, according to the report.

A spokesman said Project Veritas does not comment on ongoing investigations “real or imagined.”

The spokesman linked to a video that Project Veritas said is evidence that union presidents at two New Jersey schools protected teachers who behaved inappropriately.

Project Veritas carries out undercover sting operations in which its employees use deceptive tactics and hidden cameras in an attempt to expose wrongdoing by groups associated with liberals.

The organization has been accused of editing its videos in ways that mislead viewers.

It drew attention in November when a woman told a Washington Post reporter she had an affair with Senate candidate Roy Moore. The Post revealed the woman was actually an employee of Project Veritas.

Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, accused the organization of overreach and abuse.

“These tactics demonstrate the damage, danger and fear that they are willing to create – and now they are doing it in our school buildings,” Cropper said.

The union also received reports of similar incidents at a school in southern Ohio and a career center in northwest Ohio. It believes Project Veritas employees interacted with people at the Cleveland Teachers Union, Cleveland Heights Teachers Union and Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.

The police report said that Desir and Lopez did not know the specifics of the investigation, only James O’Keefe, who founded Project Veritas, and Joe Halderman know.

Halderman, who is associated with Project Veritas, is a former CBS News journalist who was convicted of attempting to extort David Letterman for $2 million.

O’Keefe was convicted of a misdemeanor in 2010 for using a fake identity to enter a federal building during a previous sting operation.

While no charges will result, Lordstown said it will increase its safety measures.

Visitors will no longer be buzzed into district buildings; they will be met at the door by staff members.

The district already planned to construct safety vestibules at both buildings this summer.

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