The National School Boards Association (NSBA) apologized for its September 29 letter to the White House asking for “federal assistance to stop threats and acts of violence against public schoolchildren, public school board members, and other public school district officials and educators.”
The apology memorandum from the NSBA Board of Directors to its members, released on October 22, said:
“As you all know, there has been extensive media and other attention recently around our letter to President Biden regarding threats and acts of violence against school board members. We wanted to write to you directly to address this matter.
“On behalf of NSBA, we regret and apologize for the letter. To be clear, the safety of school board members, other public school officials and educators, and students is our top priority, and there remains important work to be done on this issue. However, there was no justification for some of the language in the letter. We should have had a better process in place to allow for consultation on a communication of this significance. We apologize also for the strain and stress this situation has caused you and your organizations [their emphasis].”
The NSBA’s September letter said that “local and state law enforcement agencies” needed assistance, and it asserted that threats and acts of violence “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
That letter led U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to send a memorandum to the directors of the FBI and the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, as well as to the head of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Criminal Division and all federal prosecutors. The memorandum directed these groups to convene meetings to address threats against school administrators, teachers, staff and board members and to create a system for reporting, assessing and responding to threats.
Garland’s action brought angry responses from parents, state school board associations, and organizations concerned with free speech. Parents said the DOJ labeled them “domestic terrorists” because of their legitimate concerns about issues such as disturbing and graphic sex education curriculums; disturbing books in school libraries and classrooms; teaching transgender ideology; and teaching extremist ideologies such as Critical Race Theory.
The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed a lawsuit on behalf of parents in Saline, Michigan and Loudoun County, Virginia, saying that Garland’s actions were a direct threat to their freedom of speech and the right to direct the education of their children. The suit says the DOJ’s memorandum constitutes unlawful discrimination based on political and religious beliefs and views.
Parents Defending Education emailed 47 state school board associations, asking them to comment on the NSBA’s letter. The organization stated, “As of October 21, 21 states have distanced themselves from the NSBA’s letter: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming [their emphasis].”
Twenty state groups said they were not informed, asked for input or consulted before the original letter was sent by the NSBA. The Kentucky School Boards Association said, “We believe strongly in the value of local control. Engaging with local constituents is a hallmark of democracy and disagreement expressed publicly is not new for school board members.”
The Florida School Boards Association responded, “We also both encourage and welcome parents, as well as other concerned citizens, into our school board meetings to engage in lively, respectful, and civil civic discourse. We respect Florida’s open meeting laws, invite disparate beliefs to be shared, and believe hearing from passionate stakeholders is a sign of a healthy community engagement.”
The NSBA’s apology stated that it values “the voices of parents, who should and must continue to be heard when it comes to decisions about their children’s education, health, and safety.”
The group added that it was reviewing its processes and procedures, adding that it would announce improvements to the communication between its staff, board and state members.
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