By Corinne Murdock |
A Scottsdale superintendent said that the white race is problematic, and that meritocracy is a lie.
These comments, and more, came from Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) Superintendent Scott Menzel in a 2019 interview given while he was a superintendent in Michigan. His remarks remain in line with his current beliefs, based on local reporting on his performance in the district over the last two years.
“There’s a misperception that educational equity is really only for ethnically and racially diverse districts. But White people have racial identity as well, and in fact problematic racial identity that we typically avoid,” said Menzel.
Menzel advocated for dismantling the current educational system and replacing it with a system based on racial equity and calling out privilege.
“[White people] should feel really, really uncomfortable, because we perpetuate a system by ignoring the realities in front of us, and living in a mythological reality,” said Menzel. “In this country it’s about meritocracy. ‘Pull up yourself by your bootstraps, everybody has the same opportunity.’ And it’s a lie.”
Menzel said that the chaos of riots and public conflicts, such as the Charlottesville incident, affords “liberal progressive” actors such as himself “the opportunity to dismantle, disrupt, and recreate” society into a more socially just and equitable design. He noted that school funding shouldn’t be equal; rather, it should be equitable based on kids’ needs.
“[White supremacy is] in the very fabric of the way this country was established, and we’ve never righted the wrongs of the genocide of the indigenous population, and the enslavement of a population from Africa on which the wealth of this country was built,” said Menzel.
Arizona legislators decried the superintendent’s remarks as racist.
State Rep. Joseph Chaplik (R-LD03) said that Menzel should issue an apology and be terminated from his position immediately.
“The racist words and sentiments expressed by Scott Menzel have no place in education in Scottsdale or anywhere else,” said Chaplik.
Menzel became the SUSD superintendent in July 2020 amid the George Floyd riots. He was formerly a superintendent for various districts throughout Michigan: Washtenaw Intermediate School District, Livingston Educational Service Agency, and Whitmore Lake Public Schools. While at Washtenaw, Menzel was named Superintendent of the Year.
Just prior to becoming a superintendent, Menzel was the director of career development for a district in a county well known in conservative politics: Hillsdale County, home to Hillsdale College.
Menzel has long advocated for prioritizing equity and other social justice approaches to reforming education. While in Michigan, Menzel advanced efforts to institute social-emotional learning, race theories, and equity.
Menzel said in a 2015 equity panel that schools should have a “cradle to career education continuum,” resonant of the controversial “cradle-to-grave” approach former President Barack Obama proposed during his re-election campaign in 2012.
Before migrating to Arizona, Menzel was awarded with honors and positions of power defining educational standards.
In 2013, the White House honored Menzel as a YMCA Champion of Change, one of 12 nationwide to receive the honor. The following year, the Michigan Department of Education added Menzel to their Great Start Advisory Council, which defined policy issues on early childhood education.
SUSD has been mired in controversy since Menzel assumed leadership. Last year, the district posted the names of individuals online who submitted records requests, but redacted staff members’ names in response to those requests.
This policy concerning records requests occurred after media attention on SUSD’s past records requests. Last summer, SUSD provided a parent with blank patient intake forms for a Phoenix hormone and gender transition facility in response to a request concerning a high school librarian and the Gender & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) Club.
Menzel defended a staff member for discussing gender ideology with kindergarten and elementary students. Menzel accused upset parents of Civil Rights violations for speaking against the staff member’s actions. He also previously defended staff members who encouraged childhood exploration of gender and sexual identities through GSA clubs.