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Bengert: Is SUSD training the next generation of radical activists?


Over the past weeks, we have observed protests on college campuses across the nation. These events, which I believe are orchestrated and funded by external radical activists, have exploited the vulnerability of college students, leading them to support the terrorist organization Hamas.

One might wonder: How has this situation unfolded on our college campuses? The answer lies in the trajectory of education in the United States over recent decades. Radical activists among professors and administrators have progressively gained control of our educational institutions and disseminated their ideologies.

Take, for example, a situation in Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) that occurred under the leadership of Superintendent Scott Menzel. In November 2023, amidst the aftermath of a heinous Hamas attack on Israel, Dr. Lisa Hirsch, Principal at Desert Mountain High School, allowed the UNICEF club to present to students an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian presentation. The slides stated that Israel was an apartheid state. In a letter to parents after the presentation, Dr. Hirsch said, “It is important that we create an environment where all students feel safe and supported, sharing their concerns and participating in meaningful discussions.”

Moreover, this incident reflects a broader trend in SUSD, a consequence of Dr. Menzel's agenda centered on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), gender identity and social justice. In plain English, academics are no longer prioritized at SUSD. And the impacts are disastrous.

Consider, for instance, SUSD’s media literacy curriculum teaches kids what to think about climate justice, global issues and activism. Supplemental curriculum such as PebbleGo, BrainPOP, Listenwise and Second Step focus on “anti-racism,” and normalize gender dysphoria in children.

The results of Dr. Menzel’s initiatives are predictable. Students and staff are leaving in droves, with  high turnover among principals.

In 2023, science scores dropped 24% and 51% of SUSD’s eighth graders were not proficient in any of the core academic subjects, yet 94% of them graduate. 

With their social justice warrior educations under their belts, will SUSD graduates, lacking basic academic knowledge and critical thinking skills, be easily manipulated when they get to college? Could they be next fall’s newest class of college kids to protest in favor of terrorists and communism? 

Despite the shockingly low academic achievement scores of SUSD students, leftist governing board members Libby Hart-Wells, Julie Cieniawski and Zach Lindsay, all lame-duck members, extended Menzel's contract and provided him with a raise and golden parachute.

Considering these challenges, I urge parents and taxpayers to consider the upcoming SUSD Governing Board election in November. It presents an opportunity to convey a clear message to Menzel and his supporters that the community prioritizes academic excellence and critical thinking in our children's education.

I personally will be supporting Jeanne Beasley, Drew Hassler and Gretchen Jacobs as these school board candidates have committed to focus on academic excellence, fiscal responsibility and school safety.

Together, we can work towards a brighter future for SUSD and its students.

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at AzOpinions@iniusa.org.