The majority of state school board associations have either severed ties or distanced themselves from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) after the organization sent a 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.”

As Corey A. DeAngelis, national director of research at the American Federation for Children posted on Twitter, “27 state school boards associations have distanced themselves from the National School Boards Association. 17 of those states (purple) have discontinued membership, participation, and/or dues because of the NSBA’s actions.”

The NSBA letter cited increasing “acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials” and said that “the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism.” The organization asked for:

“a joint expedited review by the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, and Homeland Security, along with the appropriate training, coordination, investigations, and enforcement mechanisms from the FBI, including any technical assistance necessary from, and state and local coordination with, its National Security Branch and Counterterrorism Division, as well as any other federal agency with relevant jurisdictional authority and oversight.”

Most of the events cited by the letter were incidents where meetings were disrupted by protestors, and local school boards then shut down discussions on issues related to mask mandates, “transgender” policies and the teaching of critical race theory. Only two incidents cited – across the entire country – involved arrests, and one of those was Scott Smith, the father of a ninth grade girl who was sexually assaulted in her high school’s girls restroom by a “gender fluid” 15-year-old boy.

The request from NSBA led U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to send a memorandum to 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 letter directed them 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.

Critics accused the NSBA and the DOJ of demonizing parents’ concerns about serious issues; intimidating citizens from speaking out at school board meetings; setting up a “snitch line” for reporting disgruntled parents and citizens; and of working to squash freedom of speech.

Parents in Saline, Michigan and Loudoun County, Virginia filed a lawsuit alleging that the memorandum was a direct threat to their freedom of speech and the right to direct the education of their children, and constitutes unlawful discrimination based on political and religious beliefs and views.

And state school boards almost immediately began denouncing the letter from the NSBA and severing ties with the organization.

Parents Defending Education emailed 47 state school board associations, asking for comments on the NSBA letter. “Hawaii and Washington DC are not members of NSBA, and Virginia & Louisiana had already made public statements,” the group said.

The Delaware School Boards Association said, “The DSBA has seen school board meeting protests, some of which have become quite impassioned, however we have received NO reports of violence or threats of violence toward school staff or school board members.”

The Indiana School Boards Association wrote, “The request for federal law enforcement response was an overreach and an intervention ISBA does not support. ISBA believes in local control, and we wish to work with parents and community members to do what is best for children.” The group called for a retraction.

Many states said they were not consulted or involved in the writing of the NSBA letter, and eventually it was revealed that the organization’s board had not approved the letter before it was sent. 

In addition to state boards association verbally distancing themselves from the national organization, 17 states have now withdrawn membership, participation or dues from the NSBA.

The list, so far, includes: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. National Review reported, “These 17 chapters had contributed $1.1 million in annual payments to the NSBA since 2019, according to NSBA records.”

The NSBA eventually apologized for sending the letter and has removed it from its website.

But the DOJ’s press release, where it said it would “launch a series of additional efforts in the coming days designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel,” remains posted, as does the national tip line and Garland’s memorandum, calling for a “partnership among federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement to address threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”

Related articles and resources:

The parents’ lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, is Saline Parents v. Garland.

Concerned Parents Sue Attorney General Over Threats to Investigate Them for Criticizing School Boards

DOJ Asks FBI to Investigate Alleged Harassment of School Board Members

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