Educational leaders are condemning anti-Christian and anti-Semitic comments made at two different Arizona school district governing board meetings last week. The shocking comments were made during the official Call to the Public portion of meetings of the Chandler Unified School District and Peoria Unified School District meetings.
The anti-Semitic, conspiracy theory-based comment was during the Chandler governing board meeting by a woman who identified herself as Melanie Rettler. During an anti-Covid-19 rant, Rettler accused “the Jews” of promoting the vaccines for financial gain.
“… there is one race that owns all the pharmaceutical companies, and these vaccines aren’t safe, they aren’t effective and they aren’t free. You know that you’re paying for it through the increase in gas prices, the increase in food prices — you’re paying for this, and it’s being taken from your money and being given to these pharmaceutical companies and if you want to bring race into this: It’s the Jews.”
Contrary to other media reports Rettler’s comments did not elicit applause and it drew a rebuke from Arizona
Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate, and immigrant from Israel, Shiry Sapir.
“This abhorrent rhetoric is the direct result of making race and ethnicity the focal point of every conversation in our country,” said Sapir of the comments she described as “utterly unacceptable.”
The anti-Christian conspiracy theory-based comments were made by a woman, who identified herself as Kara Dowdy, during the Peoria governing board meeting. While claiming that Critical Race Theory-based (CRT) curriculum was about teaching tolerance, Dowdy accused opponents of holding “some kind of weird Christian point of view.”
“You know my kid has autism. It’s high functioning autism. You want to talk about suicide? It is the highest suicide rate in the country. Kids with high functioning autism have a higher suicide rate than anybody else. I want him to have that Social and Emotional Learning. I want him to know where other kids are coming from. I want him to know the truth about things. The truth about history and as he gets older more true stuff. Stop banning information. Stop asking for information to be banned people and let’s ask to keep education going. This is public education if you have some kind of weird Christian point of view or some kind of racist point of view then start your own ——- school.”
Currently the CRT influenced Social Emotional Learning (SEL) based-curriculum is offered in all areas of study and in every grade in the Peoria Unified School District. Parents who object to it must formally opt-out their child from instruction and hope that district officials honor their preference.
Critical Race theorists claim that “true history” is not taught in public schools, but offer material such as the award-winning piece of fiction, The 1619 Project, as “true history.” Critical Race Theory is a Marxist philosophy that promotes redistribution of wealth and an end to merit-based systems.
In an interview Sunday, Chandler governing board member Lindsay Love offered her own conspiracy theory. Love claimed that there was a “pretty calculated effort” to oppose the racist curriculum.
“I always say that if you are not at the table, you are on the menu, right? So I think that these parents have used the fact that a lot of people are staying home because of Covid, right, they see that our meetings are mostly maskless, right, and all the vaccine rhetoric, and that’s keeping a lot of our parents, who do not feel the same way out of the room, but unfortunately that’s all the board ever hears and this is a pretty calculated that is not only happening in Chandler meetings, but across the state and across the country right. And so there is a peeling back of equity policies, right, that are occurring in a lot of our school boards across the state because we only hear from anti-CRT and anti-equity parents and of course who’s ever in the room is going to influence the board’s decision.”
In that interview Love said she believed the community would like to see the board president Barb Marzdon “cut the microphone” in the future in response to bigoted speech.
While some believe that “cutting the microphone” would be a violation of Arizona’s Open Meeting law, that is exactly what the Peoria governing board did in response to the vulgarity uttered by Dowdy in her anti-Christian diatribe.
Shortly after the anti-Semitic comments, the Chandler Superintendent Frank Narducci issued a statement condemning them. Narducci and Rabbi Michael Beyo, CEO of the East Valley Jewish Community Center collaborated in crafting the statement:
“The district reaffirms its commitment to use its influence as a public educational institution to teach students the value of an inclusive community and give them the tools to engage in our increasingly diverse society. Chandler Unified School District denounces hate speech at all levels.”
Only one Peoria board member, Arizona State Rep. Beverly Pingerelli spoke out against the anti-Christian rant. She also expressed opposition to the anti-Semitic comments.
“I welcome all parent voices at our school board meetings, and diligently work to understand each parent speaking and wishing to express concerns about the direction of our district,” said Pingerelli. “For me, persuasion is always best achieved with strong arguments that avoid personal attacks on an individual’s beliefs. Statements such as, “if you have some kind of weird Christian point of view” defeats this purpose. Judeo-Christian values are the roots to the founding of our country and represents most constituents I serve.”
Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas called out what many conservatives believe is a double standard that allows anti-Christian rhetoric to meet few objections, while other bigoted speech is condemned.
“It is the hypocrisy of these two incidents that to me is staggering – in more ways than one,” said Douglas. “There is outrage over the anti-Semitic comments during the Chandler board meeting, but equally offensive comments targeted at people of faith during the Peoria meeting are completely ignored by the same media outlets. Likewise, in Peoria the parent made an emotional appeal for the importance of understanding and accepting each other and then closes condemning those who, in her words, “have some kind of weird Christian point of view or some kind of “racist” point of view… “ – hardly accepting of others. Our 1st Amendment guarantees our right to free speech whether or not others like or agree with our speech, as Americans we should all defend free speech especially speech of which we disapprove. To accept that with which we agree and condemn that we do not is hypocrisy at its worst.”