At least 26 state school board associations have distanced themselves from the National School Board Association after it urged the Biden administration to use federal law enforcement agencies against parents who oppose the teaching of controversial curriculum in public schools by labeling them as potential “domestic terrorists.”
The national grassroots organization Parents Defending Education says the states that have distanced themselves from the NSBA’s letter include: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Out of these, 12 states — Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin — have taken further action to withdraw membership, participation or dues from the NSBA.
PDE wrote to NSBA member states for their comment on the Sept. 29 letter sent to them by NSBA Interim Executive Director Chip Slaven, which critics believe likened activism of concerned parents to “domestic terrorism.”
The letter said the NSBA had asked the U.S. Department of Justice to mobilize law enforcement agencies to respond to “threats and acts of violence against public schoolchildren, public school board members, and other public school district officials and educators” as actions of “domestic terrorism.”
While some school board members across the nation have publicly shared incidents of threats they've purportedly received from angry residents, critics believe the request to get federal law enforcement involved is unwarranted and an attempt to silence parents.
Specific examples of concerning actions included the disruption of school board meetings “because of local directives for mask coverings to protect students and educators from COVID-19,” the incitement of “chaos” at school board meetings by “anti-mask proponents,” and the confrontation of school boards by “angry mobs” that have led boards to “end meetings abruptly.”
John Halkias, the director of the NSBA’s Central Region, wrote to Slaven the same day, on Sept. 29, sharing his belief that “the Board of Directors should have been consulted before a letter like this was sent out publicly, and no less to the President of the United States and the National Press.”
“I also agree that the letter took a stance that went beyond what many of us would consider to be reasonable and used terms that were extreme, and asked for action by the Federal Government that many of us would not request,” he added. “In fact in a recent press conference, the White House Press Secretary stated that when these incidents occur, it is a matter for local law enforcement and local authorities, and NOT the federal government.”
In an Oct. 2 email, NSBA President Viola Garcia told the organization’s board of directors that “NSBA has been engaged with the White House and the Department of Education on these and other issues related to the pandemic for several weeks now.”
Five days later, the Department of Justice published a memorandum directing “the Federal Bureau of Investigations, working with each United States Attorney, to convene meetings with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders within 30 days” to “facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers and staff.”
Republican members of Congress also criticized the memo.
“As someone who was born in the Soviet Union, I am … disturbed, very disturbed, by the use of the Department of Justice as a political tool, and its power as the police state to suppress lawful public discourse,” Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., said in a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing. “The FBI is starting to resemble old KGB with secret warrantless … surveillance, wiretapping and intimidation of citizens.”