Axios Phoenix

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👋 Happy Thursday! The weekend is calling your name.

🌥️ Today's weather: Partly sunny with a high of 70 during the day and a 40% chance of showers in the evening.

Situational awareness: President Biden will visit Arizona next Tuesday and Wednesday. The trip coincides with the state's presidential preference election.

ğŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to our Axios Phoenix member Devney Majerle!

Today's newsletter is 826 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big scoop: Trans teacher sues Peoria schools

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A transgender and nonbinary teacher is suing the Peoria Unified School District and two of its board members in federal court alleging harassment and discrimination, Axios has learned.

Catch up quick: Last July, River Chunnui, a teacher at Desert Harbor Elementary School, filed a notice of claim against the district, a procedural step required before a government entity can be sued. A lawsuit was filed last Friday.

  • Chunnui is seeking compensation for sex discrimination, free speech violations, creation of a hostile workplace environment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other counts.
  • The district and board members, one of whom is no longer in office, haven't yet been served with the lawsuit and had no comment, a spokesperson told Axios.

According to the lawsuit, Chunnui sent an email to colleagues in March 2022 informing them that it was International Transgender Day of Visibility and advising how to support participating students.

  • Chunnui, who went by the name Sarah at the time, uses they/them pronouns and identifies themselves in the lawsuit as both transgender and nonbinary.
  • An online news outlet published an article about the email and included a photo of Chunnui reading the book "Pink Is for Boys" to students.

Zoom in: The district then ordered Chunnui not to return to work until further notice and informed them three days later that they were being placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into unspecified allegations of unprofessional conduct, the lawsuit stated.

  • Chunnui was allowed to return to work in June 2022 after the investigation concluded they hadn't violated any laws or district policies. However, they were ordered to refrain from using district computers for personal use.
  • The lawsuit states that Chunnui was subjected to denigrating public comments by district governing board member Heather Rooks and board candidate Rebecca Hill, who cast the teacher "as a danger to children and a sexual groomer."

Between the lines: Chunnui alleges they were singled out for leave, a "humiliating" investigation and restrictions on school computer use because of their gender identity.

  • Rooks and Hill's attacks have also subjected Chunnui to harassment, threats and vandalism to their home and car, the lawsuit stated.

The other side: Hill and Rooks did not respond to inquiries from Axios.

Keep reading

2. 🤔 Bobby Hurley's unsigned contract

ASU head coach Bobby Hurley. Photo: Chris Coduto/Getty Images

ASU has yet to sign a contract extension with men's basketball head coach Bobby Hurley, despite announcing the deal a year ago and giving Hurley a raise, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The situation raises questions about ASU Athletics' business management during a period of chaos and scrutiny.

  • A sports attorney told the Republic the long delay in formalizing Hurley's extension is "extraordinarily unusual."

The intrigue: Hurley's agent, Matthew Kelly, blamed the lag on ASU.

  • The school's athletics director, Ray Anderson, resigned in November after months of public pressure and has not yet been replaced.
  • "I'd say that getting stuff done at Arizona State — and not just Ray but a lot of the folks there sometimes — it's just a challenge, to say that in the nicest way," Kelly told the Republic.

What we're watching: Without a signed extension, Hurley's contract ends June 30.

  • Kelly and ASU told the Republic they expect the deal will be finalized imminently.

Yes, but: Until both parties sign on the dotted line, Hurley's future with ASU is not guaranteed.

Tell a Sun Devil

3. 📈 Growing, growing, grown

Change in population, 2020 to 2023
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Phoenix added 195,000 people between 2020 and 2023, according to new estimates from the Census Bureau released today.

The big picture: The influx of newcomers represented a 4% population increase.

  • That's compared with a 1% increase nationwide.

Why it matters: The Valley's population growth is, in part, a testament to expanding job opportunities.

Yes, but: Metro Phoenix now has an extreme housing shortage that's driven up house and apartment costs and priced out working class families.

How it works: The new data comes from the Census Bureau's annual Population Estimates Program, which estimates the population between censuses.

Share the population boom

4. Chips & salsa: Prison for elections threat

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

🏛 A Massachusetts man was sentenced to three and a half years in federal prison for making a bomb threat to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office in 2021. (CNN)

Two Maricopa County sheriff's deputies were reassigned after providing the parents of a suspect charged in Preston Lord's death with an unauthorized escort to their vehicle. (ABC 15)

💵 Family Dollar will close nearly 1,000 stores nationwide, though it's unclear how many of the locations in 88 Arizona cities will be affected. (AZcentral)

🗳 The RNC has hired attorney Christina Bobb, who was a prominent figure in the Arizona Senate's "audit" of the 2020 election. (CNN)

Sponsored job listings

Fresh job openings around town

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Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Use code FIRST50 for $50 off your first job post.

5. Where in the Valley?

Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

Welcome to another edition of "Where in the Valley?"

How it works: We show you something cool. You tell us where it is.

  • The first reader who names the spot gets a shout-out in the newsletter.

You tell us: Where in the Valley can you find this wall decorated with colorful tiles?

ğŸŽ¥ Jeremy was shamed by a friend for not having watched "Oppenheimer" yet, and rightfully so. He hopes to remedy this soon.

👽 Jessica can't get "Dear Alien (Who Art in Heaven)" out of her head after yesterday's Phoenix Lights coverage.

This newsletter was edited by Emma Hurt and copy edited by Jay Bennett.

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