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National School Boards Association mulled asking Biden to deploy military to local meetings

White House staffer had 'advance knowledge' of controversial letter

Loudoun County, School Board, Viginia
A woman sits with her sign during a Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board meeting in Ashburn, Virginia, on October 12, 2021. |

The National School Boards Association considered asking the White House to deploy the Army National Guard and military police to maintain order at local school board meetings, according to the findings of an independent review released by the organization on Friday. 

An early draft letter addressed to President Joe Biden released May 20 as part of the review asked that the Army National Guard and its Military Police be "deployed [in egregious circumstances] to certain school districts and related events where students and school personnel have been subjected to acts and threats of violence." 

That language was later removed, according to the review.

Last October, emails made public showed the NSBA consulted with the Biden administration when crafting the Sept. 29, 2021, letter. Critics alleged the NSBA letter likened the activism of concerned parents to "domestic terrorism" and prompted a memo from Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting the FBI to work with local law enforcement to address threats against school officials.

It was later reported that NSBA leadership had "been engaged with the White House for several weeks" leading up to the organization's letter.

The letter 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."

Some of the "threats" cited by the letter included pushback from parents over COVID-19 mask mandates, "anti-mask proponents" and the confrontation of school boards by "angry mobs" that have led school boards to "end meetings abruptly."

Following the public backlash to the letter, the NSBA retained attorney Philip Kiko to conduct the independent review. The organization vows the review "was conducted independently from the influence of the NSBA, its staff, and Board of Directors."

As part of the review, attorneys interviewed 30 people, including NSBA staff, and issued formal FOIA requests for any information and documents to the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The review concluded that the letter was "principally directed, reviewed, and approved by" NSBA's former Interim Director and CEO Chip Slaven. Slaven is said to be responsible for the letter's "origin and substance."

The review also found that four board officers reviewed the letter: Slaven, NSBA Program Director Deborah Rigsby, NSBA's Interim Chief Advocacy Officer Jane Mellow and NSBA's Director of Communications Jason Amos.

Other than review by those four officers, the letter was not widely reviewed or approved within the organization, and the finalized letter was not disclosed to the full NSBA Board of Directors or NSBA members until after it was submitted, according to the report.

Notably, the review also "did not find evidence that most NSBA officers, board members, senior staff, or executives contributed to or were aware of the letter while the letter was being drafted."

"As you saw in the report, a draft of the letter was shared with the Board Officers," NSBA Board President Frank S. Henderson Jr. said in a statement. "We regret that we did not review the letter more closely at the time. We apologized in 2021 and acknowledged that the letter should have never been sent — the sentiments shared do not represent the Board's views or the views of the NSBA. 

"We are focused now on implementing processes to ensure this does not happen again."

The review also found White House Senior Advisor to the President Mary C. Wall "had advance knowledge of the planned letter and its specific contents and interacted with Mr. Slaven regarding the letter during its drafting."

However, the review did not find any "direct or indirect evidence suggesting the Administration requested the letter."

"Evidence indicates that White House officials discussed the existence of the Letter, its requests, and the contents of the Letter with Department of Justice officials more than a week before the Letter was finalized and sent to President Biden," the review stated.

The report found that the initial draft letter was written shortly after Sept. 9, 2021, when Slaven directed Rigsby via Mellow to do so. 

Slaven told investigators conducting the review that he decided to send the letter after reading a Sept. 8 Politico article entitled "Critical race theory turning school boards into GOP proving grounds."

The report quoted him as saying he was influenced by the article, which mentioned members of the far-right "Proud Boys" attending school board meetings in New Hampshire.

On Sept. 9, Slaven took part in a White House conference call regarding the Biden administration's upcoming announcement on its plan to "stop the Delta variant and boost COVID-19 vaccinations."

According to the report, Slaven emailed NSBA staff while he was on the conference call and instructed them to draft a statement on the plan. In response, the NSBA drafted a statement that cited "in-person threats, abuse, and harassment" against school boards over COVID and masking policies.

While Slaven considered requesting federal intervention as early as August 2021, he did not take such action until the Sept. 9 draft, the review states.

As NSBA's primary spokesman, Amos worked closely with Slaven and Mellow to "provide advance copies of the Letter to media outlets and to intentionally draw significant attention to the Letter both before and after it was publicly released."

In October, U.S. Attorney General Garland sent a memorandum directing the FBI 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." 

Within weeks following the letter's release, 18 state affiliates announced intentions to cut ties with the NSBA, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Virginia.

The Christian Post asked NSBA for comment but was informed the organization won't provide further comment at this time. 

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