All three Scottsdale legislators last month called for the termination of Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) Superintendent Scott Menzel after “racist” comments he made about white people in 2019 were reported in the media. Since no action has been taken, the Arizona Freedom Caucus (AFC) held a press conference last Thursday demanding the school board fire him.
State Sen. Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale), said, “Superintendent Menzel has chosen to publicly conduct himself in such an unbecoming manner that a critical mass of parents in the district do not have confidence in his ability to be responsible and effectively lead our children.”
Menzel, who is white, made numerous derogatory comments about white people during an interview, including stating that they have “problematic racial identity.” He said he has the “burden and obligation” to dismantle the system for those who do not benefit from it. Menzel endorsed White Fragility, which claims white people are the beneficiaries of systemic racism, and discussed “white male privilege.” A writer for the Arizona Progress & Gazette said “his words during this interview seem to come straight from a CRT textbook.”
Menzel denied making the statements later. “I didn’t say anything ‘hateful’ about any group of people,” he said.” “I also did not say that ‘white people are problematic.’”
Chaplik explained why legislators are getting involved. “We have heard the argument that this is merely a local issue; the state legislators should stay out,” he said. “However, this is our local district, legislative district three, and most of the other local officials are not appropriately handling the glaring issues in our community.”
Chaplik added, “Scott Menzel has created a culture of intimidation. Fear within the community. We, however, will not be intimidated.” He noted that Superintendent of Schools Tom Horne has also called for Menzel’s termination.
Critical race theory has no place in Arizona schools. Superintendent Scott Menzel's comments are unacceptable. Superintendent Horne joins Scottsdale legislators and parents calling for the removal of Superintendent Menzel. https://t.co/nNvr5oqKKI
— Arizona Department of Education (@azedschools) February 24, 2023
Next, State Representative Alex Kolodin (R-Scottsdale) spoke. “I was a teacher,” he said. “Let me tell you I do not want any students in my classroom, or any other classroom to feel uncomfortable trying to get out of their race.” He went on, “As long as we’re focused on this racial, racist, nonsense, that is distracting our youth and making them feel uncomfortable, we will not be focusing on … academic areas, and this country will fall further and further behind. We will get further and further divided, and I am here to say that we are fed up, we are not going to take it anymore.”
A reporter asked Kolodin what caused Menzel’s firing. He responded, “The cause is he’s racist, the cause is that he’s making Scottsdale kids feel uncomfortable.”
Another reporter asked him, “So you want kids to be learning about math and science, and yet most of the districts in Arizona right now are underground, with many only working four days a week. So what is another solution? Other than just firing Dr. Menzel.”
Kolodin said, “Districts clearly have the resources and capacity to be wasting all this time with this racist pseudoscience. … Let’s see how many of the resources they free up if they focus back on academics, that they get superintendents in the schools that are actually focused on core academic subjects.”
Arizona Women of Action organized a peaceful protest at the school board meeting for SUSD on February 23, with several submitting comments. Menzel has refused to step down.
Carine Werner, a Scottsdale resident who ran for the school board and took office in January, said someone entered her house after she spoke up against Menzel on the James T. Harris Show and left a substance that is being examined by the Phoenix Police Department.
In a statement, she said that after telling Menzel about the incident, he sent out a letter to board members a few days later “stating that no threats had been made.”
Democrats are defending Menzel and his statements. State Senator Christine Marsh (D-Scottsdale) tweeted, “I stand with Dr. Menzel.” Former Scottsdale City Councilwoman Linda Milhaven stated in an op-ed supporting Menzel’s comments, “These are the words of a thoughtful and purposeful leader.”
Several Twitter users went after Menzel. An account named @johninphx tweeted, “People like him and racist Katie Hobbs are an embarrassment to our great state,” referring to a successful million dollar lawsuit filed by a former staffer of Hobbs asserting that the governor, then a legislator, racially discriminated against her.
A user named @ScornedLogic tweeted, “If there was any question that your kids’ whiteness was a negative in Gov Schools this seems to settle it!”
SUSD has come under heavy criticism over the last couple of years. Former Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a lawsuit against the school district last June for structuring school board meetings in a way that prohibited public comment on a proposed mask mandate and other topics.
Jann-Michael Greenburg, who served as the school board president, was removed by the school board after it was discovered that he had compiled a dossier on parents he didn’t like. SUSD hosted a student club to “promote leadership and diversity” that asked students to reconsider their heterosexuality.
The interview with Menzel was available on the Torchlight website until around the end of last month. The Torchlight website now returns an error when accessed.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Scott Menzel” by Scottsdale Unified School District. Background Photo “Classroom” by Pixabay.