Arizona educators have a new resolution to kick off 2022: a return to remote learning and school closures, with the struggle over school funding placed on the backburner temporarily. Teachers unions are calling for schools across Arizona to hold off on in-person learning for another two weeks due to the holiday spike in COVID-19 cases.
Arizona Daily Independent reported on a key player in the push to pause in-person learning: Rebecca Garelli. She was also a critical player in the establishment of RedforEd, a teachers union activist movement, and a founding member of Arizona Educators United (AEU), a local affiliate of the National Educators United (NEU). AEU’s domain is defunct currently, though their Facebook page remains active.
Garelli encouraged people to sign onto a letter from NEU to delay school openings for another two weeks.
The letter was published the same day AEU published the results of a “Return to Safe Schools” survey by RedforEd to determine support for school reopenings.
Of the nearly 500 responses from Arizona educators and community members spanning 81 different school districts and charter schools, 56 percent said “yes, with reservations” to reopening, about 24 percent said “no,” about 18 percent said “yes,” and about three percent qualified as “other” responses. Concerning work-related stress attached to in-person work: about 39 percent were “extremely stressed,” about 28 percent were “moderately stressed,” about 11 percent were “mildly stressed,” about 11 percent were “typical[ly] stress[ed],” and about 10 percent were “not stressed at all.
The Arizona transplant came from Chicago, where she made tens of thousands more — at least about $12,800 more —while working as a middle school math and science teacher in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) than she has in Arizona. According to open records, Garelli made around $80,800 a year as a middle school teacher and for three years an additional estimated $7,400 as a CPS consultant, then $69,000 with the Arizona Department of Education (ADE).
NotInOurSchools reported Garelli’s hire and relocation to Arizona following the appointment of Kathy Hoffman, the current Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. Garelli also serves on the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission Steering Committee.
The unionists’ timing this year to strong-arm a halt on returning to classrooms wasn’t novel. Last New Year’s Eve, Garelli suggested educators take coordinated “sickouts” and “other actions” on behalf of NEU.
This year, Garelli promised that she wouldn’t be sending her children to school “anytime soon” due to the increase in COVID-19 cases.
Another key player in the RedforEd founding, Arizona Education Association (AEA) President Joe Thomas, also called for remote learning. The AEA is a state affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA).
Garelli, Thomas, and Dylan Wegela led AEU, which oversaw and organized the RedforEd movement. Noah Karvelis — a Littleton Elementary School District (LESD) music teacher quickly appointed as president of the Littleton Education Association (LEA), a local AEA affiliate, and AEU co-founder — told the Shanti Journal in a 2018 spotlight interview that RedforEd started as a Twitter exchange between him and Thomas. That interview has since been removed from the journal’s website.
“RedforEd is a movement to increase funding for education in Arizona. The primary goal is to restore the $1.1 billion in education funding cuts. It all started with a tweet between myself and Joe Thomas discussing what the climate among educators in Arizona was like,” stated Karvelis. “Ultimately, we decided to have me start a RedforEd day.”
December of 2020, the NEA claimed that mitigation measures like remote learning were far more important than the effects they had on schoolchildren. The association claimed that the children were “resilient.”
“Yes, it’s been difficult. There is learning loss. There are social-emotional challenges. In some cases, there is sickness, economic hardship, or trauma,” wrote the NEA. “But students are extremely resilient.”
Last October, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared that the current state of youth mental health qualified as a national emergency.
The next month, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy published an opinion in USA Today urging schools nationwide to keep schools open. They cited the 50 percent decline in child and adolescent COVID-19 cases nationwide from late last August to late October.
“[I]t’s on adults to recognize that our highest responsibility to children and youth is to lift up their needs; equip them to be physically, mentally and socially healthy; and give them a chance, at long last, to thrive,” wrote the two officials.
At the end of September, three female students took it upon themselves to defend an unofficially-established multicultural center at the Arizona State University (ASU) Tempe campus by segregating those unwelcome in the longtime common room: white males with what appeared to be differing political beliefs. After two of the students, Sarra Tekola and Mastaani Qureshi, received a punishment of a reflection essay and light warning from the university, the activist pair spoke out in a video posted last week to the Instagram page for their activist group, the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition (MSC). The third student involved, Miriam “Mimi” Araya, wasn’t found guilty of any code of conduct violations.
In their nine-minute video, Tekola and Qureshi claimed that ASU was toxic and a training ground for Nazis and white supremacy. Two ASU professors submitted videos to support the activist pair: English professor Lee Bebout and School of Social Transformation Director Camilla Fojas.
At the time of the incident, ASU claimed to AZ Free News that the three women were engaged in a “disagreement” highlighting “differences of opinion” that were “part of the university experience.” Then, AZ Free News reported last month that the women were being investigated for code of conduct violations.
When the three women recorded their confrontation with two white male students, they demanded that the pair leave because they were white, male, and displaying perceived controversial political messaging: a ‘Police Lives Matter’ sticker, a Bass Pro Shop hat, a Chick-fil-A cup, and a ‘Did Not Vote for Biden’ t-shirt. The three women called the pair “racist” and “Karens,” while accusing them of promoting murderers and white supremacy.
A week prior to their exhortation video against ASU, MSC lamented that the university continued to uphold “respectability politics.” That concept claims that marginalized groups shouldn’t adhere to any cultural or political norms of their oppressors in attempts to reconcile differences.
The following are the complete remarks from Tekola and Qureshi’s video complaint:
Qureshi: On September 23, hateful and racist symbology invaded our Multicultural Center on ASU’s Tempe Campus, and made the center unsafe for BIPOC [Black Indigenous People of Color] students who were trying to study. The two white men, both students, displayed a ‘Police Lives Matter’ sticker, a Bass Pro hat, a Chick-fil-A cup, and an anti-Biden t-shirt.
Tekola: The Police Lives Matter sticker was on one of the white man’s laptop, [sic] laptop which was clearly directed towards a black woman who was leading the black study tables across from him, as the boys chose to sit across from the black study tables. The boys made the space uncomfortable with their nonverbal, aggressive gestures directed towards the black women. The students called for help from ASU but no one came for over 30 minutes, so we were forced to confront these men by ourselves.
Qureshi: After this incident we received thousands of rape, death, and lynching threats on our personal Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and email accounts. It has been more than two months since the incident, and Zarra and I receive these threats every single day.
Tekola: ASU was aware of how we were getting doxxed and suffering psychological and emotional violence by white supremacists across the country, but it still did not protect us. Instead, they launched an investigation against us and we had to mobilize the community to protect ourselves from being kicked out by the institution. ASU’s investigation found us guilty of interfering with university activities.
Qureshi and Tekola: Dear white people: aka, ASU.
Qureshi: You openly discriminated against us on November 16 when you handed down your decision from your racially biased investigation. We are being persecuted for defending our Multicultural Center from racism and sexism. You gave us two punishments: the first one was a warning, and the second one as to write a three page paper on how next time when we talk with white people about race and society we will be civil.
Tekola: This video is a fulfillment of our educational intervention. We are going to give ASU an educational intervention on why telling students of color at ASU to be more civil in the face of white supremacy and neo-Nazism on this campus is actually violent.
Qureshi: ASU is a violent place. Just last week there was an Islamaphobic attack at ASU in which pages from Quran Majeed, the holiest book for Mulsims, were ripped apart and burned for Muslim students to find in the interfaith room. The interfaith room is they only place on campus where Muslim students are told they should pray in. Meanwhile there are multiple small rooms in the multicultural center at ASU Tempe that Muslim women, who are looking for a private place to pray in, are locked out of. We are told the reason that Musllim women cannot use those small spaces to pray in is because it would not be equal.
Tekola: You see, this is the problem: ASU does not understand the difference between equity and equality. And ASU refuses to center the most marginalized. In addition to that hate crime, around October 31 another hate crime happened at ASU Tempe where anti-Semitism flyers littered the campus. These flyers had an ASU registered student club, the College Republicans United, on the flyer. This is the same club that raised money for Kyle Rittenhouse, and these are just the attacks that happened since our own viral incident on September 23. This tells you a little bit about the type of environment, the toxic place that ASU wants us to be civil in.
[clip of Tekola speaking at a protest]: I have come to MLK’s conclusion that I have integrated my people into a burning building. ASU is on fire. For years, ASU has refused to put out a statement condemning white supremacy after being used as a recruiting ground for Nazis, breeding the culture of hate on this campus. They claim it is because of ‘free speech,’ and yet we students of color are being punished for our free speech. I am being punished for being too black, too proud, too loud, and unapologetic. I am being punished for not adopting their respectability politics, but I don’t need respectability politics. I am a foreign fellow appointed by President Crowe himself to the African Advisory Council. I achieved all this while refusing to tone down my blackness to make white people feel more comfortable. Our center has been infiltrated by Trump supporters, and ASU is telling us ‘there’s nothing we can do.’ ASU refuses to protect students of color and the world needs to know how they treat us here on this campus when we push to make it a better place for all.
Bebout (in a clip): Calls for civil dialogue can be weaponized in two critical ways. First, if a white person actively trolls and provokes an encounter but does so in a relatively complicit way — say they enter a space meant to foreground the experiences of people of color, and these folks deploy a rhetoric meant to diminish black and queer lives — as long as the trolling is plausibly deniable to an ideologically white-oriented audience, that any pushback that the white individuals receive may be cast as aggression. The act of instigation itself would be erased, and the instigators will be cast as victims, and the people who seek to defend themselves will be seen as oppressors, uncivil, harassers. Second, because of the way in which civil and rational dialogue is racially coded, when white-aligned institutions call for people of color to be civil to interlocutors that have no interest in earnestly engaging and listening; whether intentionally or not, these institutions are asking people of color and other aggrieved communities to be quieter. They are asking them to be less vociferous in their defense of their personhood. In other words, calls for civility easily become calls for docility: a submission to the way things are, as opposed to a vocal defense of the world as it should be.
Qureshi (in two separate clips from speeches at protests): ASU is angry at me, and wants me to put me back in my place as a brown woman. ASU is punishing us for standing up for our friends and other students of color. ASU is punishing us for telling two white boys that only one room on campus is not going to center them. […] If you all didn’t see it yesterday, the provost of this university, Nancy Gonzales, sent out a statement yesterday in response to the 3,511-plus messages received in support of us. In her statement, Nancy Gonzales tries to sympathize with Zarra, Mimi, and I and assures everyone that ASU is handling this case with cultural awareness. But in her statement, she misspells my first name! How are you going to support me if you even can’t spell my first name correctly on an appropriate statement. This is the level of care ASU has for us: they’re insensitive to Pakistani and Muslim cultures. They want us to turn in a written statement by December 15 explaining how we will be civil and how, and I quote, ‘You might approach such a situation in the future to facilitate a civil dialogue on the purpose of the MC [Multicultural Center] or the topics of race and society are addressed in this confrontation.’ They want me to be civil! They’re calling me a savage! This is what white people did when they came to my country and they colonized us for 270 years!
Fojas (in a clip): […] I think their reaction was justified and was equal to the symbolic violence that these students and their presence and the symbols that were brought into the space represented.
Those behind and in support of masking requirements who have deemed cloth and medical masks satisfactory these past 22 months are now saying they’re no longer ideal. Instead, experts have begun calling for an “upgrade” of sorts. University of Arizona (UArizona) Public Health Policy and Management Director Joe Gerald is one such health expert; he toldKOLD that individuals should wear masks graded KN95 or higher, in addition to getting vaccinated.
“[People should be] making more careful decisions about how you interact these next few weeks, wearing a mask that’s upgraded to KN95 or higher,” said Gerald. “Public health right now is a hard sell. We are two years into this, many of the things we’re asking people to do require a sacrifice of self to others, and it’s a hard message even in good times. […] You’re not going to be able to convince everyone to do the right thing all the time, but you’re trying to get more people to do the right thing more of the time.”
Gerald has provided his expert opinion frequently throughout the pandemic to both policymakers and news outlets. Near the beginning of the pandemic, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) appointed Gerald to a task force charged with creating a model to predict COVID-19 spread. Gerald’s model predicted that the least amount of COVID-19 cases would occur by waiting to reopen fully until the end of May.
In early May, ADHS disbanded the task force. Instead, ADHS reportedly opted to use a then-undisclosed federal model from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The ADHS director at the time, Dr. Cara Christ, published the FEMA model later that month. Unlike the version offered by Gerald’s task force, the FEMA model didn’t account for the lifting of mitigative measures.
Gerald also predicted to reporters last June that the state would run out of hospital and ICU beds within weeks; that didn’t happen. All throughout last year Gerald pushed against UArizona’s reopening last fall for in-person class, tellingCNN last Julythat it was “a really stupid idea.” Last October, Gerald explained to The Atlantic how he’d successfully rallied UArizona to slow its reopening for in-person classes.
Gerald’s latest recommendation followed Pima County’s health department and board of supervisors implementation of another mask mandate last week. Individuals must wear masks indoors when six feet of social distancing can’t be maintained. The mandate’s enforcement measures relied on A.R.S. § 36-183.04 through § 36-183.07, as well as § 36-191. Individuals who fail to adhere to a compliance order may be charged a civil penalty up to $750, or $1,000 in one day and up to $10,000 per violation depending on the course of action undertaken by health officials. Enterprises who violate health edicts may owe up to $5,000; those who hold a valid permit could be guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor, and the permitless could be guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor. However, the supervisors noted that any civil or criminal enforcement action couldn’t be undertaken without their approval.
The shift in masking narrative hasn’t been exclusive to the Pima County area: health experts and other Democrat-run areas across the country have been shifting theirs as well. Instead of cloth masks, the new, improved standard for masking has graduated to filtering facepiece respirators (FFPs) — masks graded KN95 or higher.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced Monday that their state would distribute at-home COVID-19 tests and N95 masks beginning Thursday.
As of guidance last updated in October, the CDC recommended cloth masks and advised against N95 masks. Their recommendation was based on the need to reserve N95 masks for health care personnel.
On Monday, the CDC announced that it would halve the recommended quarantine period from ten to five days. Infected individuals must be asymptomatic and wear a mask around others to receive the shortened quarantine period. The CDC recommended the same for those exposed yet uninfected, even for the unvaccinated or more than six months out from their last COVID-19 vaccination; yet, that same class of individuals may also be permitted to avoid quarantine altogether by masking for ten days, if quarantining isn’t feasible and they test negative after day five of exposure.
The CDC claimed their decision was “motivated by science.” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky emphasized that the new priority was a safe continuance of regular life.
“CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives,” stated Walensky. “Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”
It’s unlikely the CDC’s sudden change in COVID-19 mitigation protocol originated within the government. Rather, the push from large corporations may have prompted the change.
Nearly a week earlier, Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian asked Walensky in a request letter to halve the required ten-day quarantine period for his fully vaccinated workers experiencing breakthrough COVID-19 infections. Bastian claimed that data on the Omicron variant suggested the virus was 25 to 50 percent more contagious but less virulent and with shorter incubation and infection periods for the fully vaccinated. According to the CEO, over 90 percent of Delta Airlines’ workforce has been vaccinated.
Bastian also proposed a partnership, offering up his medical experts to work alongside the government and “collect empirical data.” The CEO classified his workers as essential, equating their necessity to health care workers, police officers, firefighters, and public transportation workers.
“Our employees represent an essential workforce to enable Americans who need to travel domestically and internationally. With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the 10-day isolation for those who are fully vaccinated may significantly impact our workforce and operation,” wrote Bastian. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the CDC to protect the health and safety of our people, customers, and communities as the pandemic evolves.”
Arizona law affords students forced to quarantine by their schools for COVID-19 the right to court-appointed counsel at the expense of the state, according to Attorney General Mark Brnovich. In an opinion issued last Friday, Brnovich responded to an inquiry from State Senator Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) on the issue.
The attorney general explained that schools relying on county health department quarantine or isolation protocol must also adhere to the requirement of counsel outlined in the same law:
“The court shall appoint counsel at state expense to represent a person or group of persons who is subject to isolation or quarantine pursuant to this article and who is not otherwise represented by counsel,” reads the law. “Representation by appointed counsel continues throughout the duration of the isolation or quarantine of the person or group of persons. The department or local health authority must provide adequate means of communication between the isolated or quarantined persons and their counsel.”
The law also stipulates that legal counsel must be acquired at state expense and last the duration of the isolation or quarantine.
In reference to mandatory quarantines for students exposed to COVID-19, Brnovich referenced the authority cited by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) in their letter to communities in August. The letter cited MCDPH authority for student quarantines came from a statute which, in turn, cited the two statutes outlined by Brnovich granting legal counsel.
“When a county health department or public health services district is apprised that infectious or contagious disease exists within its jurisdiction, it shall immediately make an investigation. If the investigation discloses that the disease does exist, the county health department or public health services district may adopt quarantine and sanitary measures consistent with department rules and sections 36-788 and 36-789 to prevent the spread of the disease. The county health department or public health services district shall immediately notify the department of health services of the existence and nature of the disease and measures taken concerning it.”
Brnovich concluded that parents may seek a court order to lift the quarantine immediately, which would initiate the appointment of state-provided legal counsel to the student. A court would have 24 hours to hear the case, and 48 hours to submit its ruling. Counsel would also be available for parents petitioning to change quarantine conditions. In that case, a court would have 10 days to hold a hearing.
“[U]nder MCDPH’s quarantine requirements, which appear to be issued pursuant to A.R.S. § 36-788, MCDPH, through public schools, is mandating student quarantines without a court order. Once a parent or guardian receives the MCDPH letter requiring quarantine, the parent or guardian is entitled […] to immediately seek a court order lifting the quarantine,” wrote Brnovich. “And once a parent or guardian requests court review, A.R.S. § 36-789(M) requires the court to appoint counsel for the student at state expense. Similarly, if a parent or guardian files an action on behalf of the student challenging the conditions of a quarantine, the court is required to appoint counsel for the student at state expense.”
The attorney general noted that Arizona law doesn’t necessarily define “state expense.” He opined that the cost of counsel could fall on county health departments.
That wasn’t Kelly’s only request for Brnovich’s legal opinion as of late. The state senator requested Brnovich’s opinion on religious tests and denial of religious exemptions by employers.
An answer on Kelly’s latest question has yet to be published.
Not all attendees were masked up at the Arizona School Boards Association’s (ASBA) Annual Conference last week, despite having a mask mandate in place. ASBA fought for local school districts to be able to establish mask mandates; they joined a lawsuit that prevailed against Governor Doug Ducey’s mask mandate ban.
Pima County Superintendent of Schools Dustin Williams was one leader spotted maskless during the Superintendents Division Business Meeting. In addition to ASBA’s conference mandate, most of Williams’ school districts have mask mandates in place for their students: Ajo Unified, Amphitheater Unified, Catalina Foothills Unified, Flowing Wells Unified, Sunnyside Unified School District, Tanque Verde Unified, and Tucson Unified.
A number of school officials were also maskless as they recorded testimonies for ASBA. One of them was Red Mesa Unified School District Interim Superintendent Dr. Amy Fuller, former interim superintendent for Scottsdale Unified School District. Fuller’s district currently requires face masks at all times indoors.
Unlike the county superintendent, Tanque Verde Unified Governing Board Member Anne Velosa wore a mask for her testimony.
AZ Free Newsreported in September that a number of attendees at an ASBA conference also didn’t mask up. ASBA spokespersons explained that they had a loosely enforced mask mandate in place, and that the individuals were from various districts with different beliefs on masking.
Parents have voiced concerns about their children’s social development, or the quality of education for those with special needs or disabilities. Current experts on the controversial social-emotional learning (SEL) admit that they don’t have complete studies on the impact of masking on children’s development. However, they speculated that educators could adjust somehow to work around the masks. Feasible solutions haven’t been presented for students who rely on seeing mouths to learn, such as deaf or hearing-impaired students — though some suggest clear masks, those present their own issues like fogging up.
On Thursday, Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Scott Menzel issued a statement calling criticism of a club that encourages child sexualization under the guise of offering support — Gender & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) clubs — as “targeted attacks,” and suggested that those concerned were bullies to the students involved in the club.
“Recently, there have been targeted attacks on student-created school clubs related to gender and sexual identity, sometimes called GSA clubs. The students who choose to participate in them have a legal right not to be bullied, intimidated, or otherwise targeted by adult members of our community, as well as by any of their peers,” wrote Menzel.
Menzel also asserted that SUSD doesn’t regulate the viewpoints of student-initiated clubs. The superintendent said even GSA viewpoints are protected, comparing it to clubs focused on athletics, politics, and faith. As AZ Free Newsreported, the GSA at Cocopah Middle School was initiated by English teacher Laylee Langner.
“Students’ rights to have differences of opinions, beliefs and interests are protected in the U.S. Constitution and in Arizona statute. Consistent with those rights, SUSD does not regulate the viewpoints of student-initiated clubs. We have athletic clubs, political clubs, and faith-based clubs in our schools, in addition to academic and philanthropic clubs. These clubs welcome anyone; participation in any club is voluntary.
Menzel has a doctorate and masters in philosophy. According to his LinkedIn, he received his bachelor’s degree in religion.
SUSD parent Jill Dunicandenounced Menzel’s response. Dunican told AZ Free News that it demonstrated that the superintendent lacked character and was effectively gaslighting the SUSD community on the severity of GSA’s presence and impact.
“Dr. Menzel’s attempt to frame parents as bullies for speaking out about the hateful curriculum that he has allowed into Scottsdale schools is despicable. Menzel’s use of vulnerable children as a shield to distract from his support for the CRT-aligned GLSEN program that encourages race-baiting, cop-hating, and the sexualization of children is beyond the pale,” stated Dunican. “It’s disappointing that Dr. Menzel has decided to gaslight the community on this issue. It only speaks to his lack of character and further demonstrates he is not a good fit for our community.”
Earlier this week,AZ Free News reported on claims by GSA of the Year winners at Cocopah Middle School that they’d successfully strong-armed SUSD into changing ID policy: instead of bearing their legal names on their IDs, which the budding LGBTQ activists referred to as their “deadnames,” students were permitted to display their chosen name on their IDs. Neither SUSD spokespersons or any of the board members responded to multiple inquiries about the “deadname” policy.
SUSD’s latest controversy comes in the midst of continued national exposure over the connection of their former governing board president, Jann-Michael Greenburg, to a secret dossier on parents and political enemies. Greenburg’s father created the Google Drive dossier, and Greenburg himself had editing access to it.
At the beginning of this month, Scottsdale Police Department (SPD) determined that the case fell outside their jurisdiction because the dossier consisted of open source and/or public documents. SPD passed their investigative materials on to the FBI, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office for further review.