After months of obfuscation by Scottsdale Unified School District, Superintendent Scott Menzel has succumbed to parent and media pressure, and released a copy of the district’s transgender support plan that until now they have denied existed.
As first reported by the Arizona Daily Independent, a March 2022 email exchange between Coronado High School Social Worker Amanda Turner and Scottsdale Online Learning Councilor Gary Griggs revealed the existence of a student “transgender support plan” that Griggs was making available to other staff. However, in November and December 2022 the district claimed “no documents exist” to two separate public records requests for a copy of the transgender support plan referenced.
On January 17th, 2023, following a public comment at the SUSD school board meeting, a board member requested an investigation and report on allegations brought forth that the district was hiding a transgender support plan from the community.
And, in what seems to have been the tipping point in SUSD’s dedication to hiding their transgender support plan, a national Fox News reporter contacted the district requesting a statement on the allegations that the district was unlawfully denying public records requests.
In what may be seen as gaslighting, Superintendent Scott Menzel’s SUSD communication staff told Fox News: “The district has no ‘transgender support’ plan that it uses with students to address their needs.”
Yet, less than two hours before the Fox News article was published online on January 20, 2023, Menzel emailed a parent a copy of the transgender support plan stating as an excuse for denying public records requests: “The attached items were not provided in response to your public records requests because the requests asked specifically for District forms or templates used for transgender students.” (emphasis added)
Menzel’s SUSD staff failed to mention to Fox News that only one of the two public records requests asked for a plan the district “uses.” The second request only asked for a copy of the district’s transgender or gender support plan.
“Contrary to Menzel’s claim of transparency, the district plays word games with public records requests and in bad faith looks for any opportunity to deny them,” said the parent who submitted the public records requests.
This is not the first time that Menzel has seemingly pushed misinformation on this subject. Scottsdale school board member Amy Carney stated on the James T Harris radio show that she had recently asked Menzel directly about the existence of a transgender support plan and, “our superintendent told me to my face that he has no idea what I’m talking about.”
Some have questioned if Scottsdale Unified’s Superintendent is aware of what is going on in his own district? “Either Scott Menzel has no idea that his staff are creating secret transgender support plans that look to exclude parents, which shows a lack of leadership, or he knows this is going on and has been lying to parents and the community,” said one parent interviewed. “When I heard that he was even gaslighting our school board members, my only conclusion is that this is not the leader we need.”
SUSD has a history of not being completely honest and transparent about public records requests. Earlier this year an Arizona Bar complaint was filed against former SUSD General Counsel, and now Udall Shumway attorney, Lori Bird. The complaint revolved around Bird’s misstatement of material fact by claiming that “No Records Exist” for a records request, only to “discover” over 400 pages of responsive documents when the requestor retained legal counsel.
Additionally, documents show that Scottsdale Unified possesses a patient intake form for a local hormone therapy clinic. Although the intake form requires only a patient and witness signature, the district has refused to provide any information about how the form is used, or if parents are ensured involvement in their child’s medical care. Given the lack of candor that Menzel and SUSD have shown on the existence and use of their transgender support plan, many question their truthfulness when it comes to use of the hormone therapy intake form.
Carney stated “Transparency is one of the things that both (newly elected SUSD board member) Carine Werner and I wholeheartedly believe in, and we campaigned on and we know it’s desperately needed in our district. Our community members deserve to know what’s going on with their children’s education, in all regards ….including if there is a transgender support plan.”
Carney continued: “Parents shouldn’t have to be desperately doing public records and putting them in the media to find out what’s going on in darkness in our schools – it all has to be brought into the light.”