Since working as an UncoverDC contributor, I’ve been lucky enough to have conducted interviews with Swalwell and Cuomo challengers and notable Western New York media personalities. Still, my most recent preoccupation has been with little-known Western New York mavericks defending their own. These people—flies in the ointment, which is meant as a compliment—are likely not recognized much beyond the borders of their own towns. One example recently brought to my attention while writing the previous article, New York Interview Leads to National Mask Propaganda, is Lauren Kunz of Walworth, New York. The importance of profiling a small-town contender like Kunz is that I believe they can inspire direct engagement in the political process as opposed to the armchair participation most of us are accustomed to.
Kunz’s contributions to the previous article made possible the most serious charges that were leveled in it. That story had to do with Laine Mulye, mother to an autistic son and friend and neighbor of Kunz. Local and national media outlets had—I’d imagine enthusiastically —reported the story of Laine Mulye’s alleged encouragement to her son to punch out his school bus monitor. As it was reported in contradiction to Mulye’s wishes, the bus monitor had only, and we were left to assume, asked Mulye’s son to wear his mask while on the school bus. What could the problem be? The reportage of the incident promulgated by even such media powerhouses as Newsweek revealed oddball parents opposed to masking in schools as potentially violent. It was a propaganda win for COVID authoritarians. Lauren Kunz, however, perhaps remarkably, had thought to take screenshots of the school bus monitor’s Facebook posts before they could be removed from public view. It wasn’t odd for Kunz that she would have thought to make that sort of documentation. Those screenshots, which were included in my previous article, strengthened Kunz’s allegation that the school bus monitor may have had equal, if not more, culpability in the physical altercation as Mulye.
Kunz’s next adventure involved staging a demonstration in support of her friend Laine Mulye who by that time had been taken into custody for the bus stop altercation, strip-searched, released, and become the target of a public relations campaign against her by the Gananda Central School District. Kunz’s protest supporting her friend was an angle to the story not covered in the previous article.
The protest supporting Mulye first came to my attention when I woke one morning to a video clip on YouTube from a local television station. I saw footage of what looked to be a token protest on behalf of Mulye, perhaps just fifteen people holding signs across from the Richard Mann Elementary School. The protest, however, would take on more significance entirely due to the school district’s overreaction to it. The students were given an early unplanned dismissal as a result of an alleged threatening Facebook post tied to the demonstrators. You’ll hear variations on that phrase a lot throughout this article: “alleged threatening Facebook post.” There is some major question as to whether the local authorities reasonably responded to the threat or was it strategically overblown to tar the protesters and, by extension, tar Mulye. Kunz recalled the impromptu end of the school day for me:
“They were in the process of being dismissed, and it looked like you would have come into an area where the bomb squad had been called in. Literally, it was utter chaos: police everywhere, every single building, ground maintenance guy blocking off entrances. There were signs that said no protesters are allowed to come on the property; you will be arrested immediately. There was just chaos, and we could see (School Superintendent) Van Scoy kind of hiding on the other side standing there taking pictures of us.”
School Superintendent Shawn Van Scoy played a fairly significant role in the previous article. Van Scoy, for all intents and purposes, was the bureaucratic adversary to special-needs mother, Mulye. Superintendent Van Scoy’s behavior seemed at least questionable to me at times, as outlined in that article. In the days following the protest, Kunz believed that the reason for the early dismissal would have been to inconvenience parents and place blame on the demonstrators. I wasn’t so sure and I was very interested in seeing the alleged threatening post before drawing any conclusions. However, good luck if you’re attempting to find that post. I asked Kunz if anyone in her circle had seen it. I thought that if anyone outside school administration or law enforcement had seen the post, it would most likely have been the demonstration’s organizer, and Kunz, as president of her local chapter of a national organization called Moms for Liberty, was one of the key organizers. Kunz told me she hadn’t seen the post, and at the time of our first of two interviews, she even doubted its existence.
In an ultimately futile search for the post, I was in touch with both the Gananda Central School District and the Macedon Police Department. Gananda schools were the first to get back to me and inform me that a FOIL request would be needed to see the post, a process which I skeptically read as a gamble and perhaps only a time-delay tactic. I was also, however, as evidence the school district wasn’t being entirely obstructionist, patched through to speak to Superintendent Van Scoy. Between Van Scoy’s responses and those from a representative of the police department, I have a fair sense of how things played out that day, at least in the version where everyone acts as civilly as humans do on Sesame Street. In short, an anonymous tipster turned local police onto the alleged threatening post. This set in motion a recommendation from local law enforcement to Van Scoy that he close the school. Van Scoy chose to follow the advice; the students were dismissed early, and though no arrest was made, school days resumed as normal once the protest had passed.
When I spoke to Mulye’s lawyer Chad Hummel while preparing the previous article, a conversation that took place the day after the protest, Hummel offered a strong opinion regarding the school district’s reaction to the protest, specifically regarding his client. Hummel was less than pleased with the way things played out. His opinion about the practical effect of dismissing school early holds true whether you consider the school acted reasonably or not. Hummel said:
“What they did in all reality, they ginned up all the parents against my client because now all of their children missed out on all their athletic events last night, so now the narrative just spins and spins and spins out of control against my client.”
Kunz, on the other hand, saw things from the trenches that day. She spoke to the animosity she saw from the community while at the protest:
“We had more people yell at us and told us to, ‘Go get a job’ and flip us off. Little did they consider that they weren’t working either, but they were telling us to get a job. Most of us had taken off work for the day, and I want to just tell you something that is very ironic about Van Scoy shutting us down. And all the parents hating us. Last summer, early September of 2020, there was a protest that was approved by Sean Van Scoy that started in the high school parking lot for a BLM protest. To start at the school district. They allowed a BLM protest in Gananda no problem. There was even a car in that [post] that said, spelled out, ‘F your blue line.’ So that was against police, and I even have a picture of that vehicle that went through.”
You may have caught some of the provocative threads in the preceding quote from Kunz. It quite often works that way with her that she can swing in about half a dozen directions in a very short time. What makes her different from most of the radicals in life is the extent to which she can back herself up. It isn’t just my previous article that her research helped shape. I listened to a local terrestrial radio show about the time I was finishing the article and based on the subject covered and the evidence presented, I was sure the host had talked to Kunz. When I mentioned to Kunz that I’d heard the show and thought I could detect her influence Kunz said that the broadcaster had started the show minutes after getting off the phone with her.
I thought that other than contributing money to candidates, the only avenue of protest open to people with jobs and lives and limited time might be holding a sign at a demonstration. Kunz illustrates an entirely different way. Since my first interview with Kunz, I felt that we were essentially in the same boat though we may accumulate facts toward different ends, one writing articles the other behaving as an activist and supplier of information to various writers and broadcasters. In a second interview with Kunz, I opened up the subject of the overlap between our avocations. And, incidentally, when Kunz says something like that, she has a picture of a car with a sign that reads, “F Your Thin Blue Line,” you’d better believe she does.
Kunz is essentially a documentarian cataloging posts from her adversaries before they consider them problematic and hide them. When I asked Kunz how she’d describe herself, she used a phrase I believe I’d heard recently as part of some other interview, possibly from one of the nurses protesting vaccine mandates in front of the URMC. Kunz said:
“I would call myself what other members of our organization do. We call ourselves accidental activists. [It] Wasn’t our intention as mothers, as members of our community, to be in the role that we’re in. Watching what has happened with the school boards and the mandates coming down has forced us to basically become activists.”
As an occasional researcher, I was interested in something she’d said while I wasn’t recording and asked her to repeat it with the tape running. She’d mentioned that she doesn’t only pull screenshots; she videos herself going through posts. I asked her to repeat that bit:
“Some of the pages like the community forums, yes, I would get a video. I take a video of myself scrolling through all the posts because legally, the only way if Laine decides to sue the school district—which I hope she does for what they’ve done to this poor woman—the only way to connect those people’s comments to the original post is if it’s all one long string. Otherwise, they’d say if the post is gone, we have no way to know you just didn’t take comments from over here and say they’re connected to this.”
Kunz also videotapes speeches live at meetings, and one of those was referred to heavily in the previous article. She said regarding the meetings:
“I will go and record the different speeches of parents speaking up. It’s going to become harder and harder because now we won’t be allowed to go to a lot of the school board meetings because (sarcastically) we’re so hostile, we’re just so hostile.”
Kunz was referring to the fact that many school boards now feel they’re in an adversarial relationship with parents, going so far as to classify parents as domestic terrorists. Even before the domestic terrorist label was locked in, school boards had begun to limit the amount of time at meetings for public comment or moved their meetings online. While talking along that line, I asked Kunz how specifically she’d jumped into action after Mulye’s bus stop incident. Kunz said:
“That weekend and the week after, I just went in and saved everything that I could possibly save, especially when we knew that the superintendent ordered all social media posts to stop. To think that a superintendent has that kind of power.”
That’s the kind of statement Kunz makes that has me worry that sometimes she’s gone out on a limb. What did she mean by “the superintendent ordered all social media posts to stop”? I asked for clarification. She offered:
“He [Van Scoy] told several people who run the community pages of Gananda, Walworth, Ontario, and Macedon—they’re all very liberal left-leaning admins of these groups—to shut it down, to not allow any conversation about this event.”
And do you think she’d have something in the files to back up that claim? You should probably know better by now. I should also. She sent me a screenshot from a Facebook community news board for Gananda: