In response to a letter from Parents Defending Education, 21 state school board associations (as of October 21) have distanced themselves from the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) assertions in a letter (PDF) to President Joe Biden in September asking for “federal assistance to stop threats” against school board members and review “appropriate enforceable actions against these crimes and acts of violence under the Gun-Free School Zones Act, the PATRIOT Act in regards to domestic terrorism…” (emphasis added)
(See BCN’s 17 States Warn Federal Government Not to Threaten Parents Who Protest Local School Boards.)
The controversial Patriot Act expands government power to deal with foreign terrorism.
In a response memo (PDF), U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the FBI to discuss strategies with state and local governments to deal with a “disturbing spike” in “threats of violence.”
Seventeen states have joined together to challenge the federal government’s attempts to intimidate parents.
Parents across the country have been questioning local school boards about “transgender” policies and what schools teach their children about “critical race theory.” Parents are concerned about mask mandates as well. Some school boards have held closed meetings to keep parents out and cut off microphones while parents were speaking.
Parents Defending Education asked 47 state school board associations to comment on the NSBA’s letter. Questions include whether they agree with the assertions, how they define “intimidation,” harassment,” and “threat,” and whether they plan to report parents to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Arkansas responded this way:
The Arkansas School Boards Association was not consulted by NSBA prior to the letter being sent and we disagree with much of the substance of the letter. School board meetings should be a place of communication, discourse and productive decision making for the betterment of students. Board meetings should be locally governed and unhindered by outside intervention until at such time the district requests assistance.
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 DSBA does NOT condone violence or threats of violence toward students, staff or board members. After consultation with the Governor’s office, the Public Health Department and the Delaware Department of Education the DSBA developed and issued guidance to school board presidents regarding how to best handle school board meeting protests, which included the ultimate use of LOCAL law enforcement if absolutely necessary. This guidance was issued prior to the NSBA September 29 2021 letter. The NSBA letter to President Biden was unnecessary and quite frankly not helpful.
The LSBA was not consulted about the content of the letter. The LSBA does not agree with NSBA’s action. Our concern is that NSBA’s request and description of events is not a universal occurrence at all school boards, it fails to align with the standards of good governance, and it discourages active participation in the governance process. The NSBA’s request represents a huge step backwards in the collective advocacy efforts carried out by LSBA and other state associations in protecting and preserving openness, transparency, and local autonomy.
Although we have often agreed with NSBA’s positions in advocating on behalf of elected school boards, students and families in the Nation’s public schools, we respectfully disagree with NSBA’s recent decision to request federal assistance to stop threats and acts of violence against public schoolchildren, public school board members, and other public school district officials. NSBA did not consult the Montana School Boards Association before it issued its request.
Read other states’ responses here.
Photo credit: By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Joe Biden, CC BY-SA 2.0, link
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