Disruption Health

National School Boards Association Bows to Pressure, Withdraws Complaint About Threats and Intimidation

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A month ago, the National School Boards Association wrote a letter to President Biden, asking for help on behalf of local school boards that were under attack and subject to threats by groups angry about masking and critical race theory.

The letter said, in part,

America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation. Local school board members want to hear from their communities on important issues and that must be at the forefront of good school board governance and promotion of free speech. However, there also must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders as they do their jobs.

NSBA believes immediate assistance is required to protect our students, school board members, and educators who are susceptible to acts of violence affecting interstate commerce because of threats to their districts, families, and personal safety. As our school boards continue coronavirus recovery operations within their respective districts, they are also persevering against other challenges that could impede this progress in a number of communities. Coupled with attacks against school board members and educators for approving policies for masks to protect the health and safety of students and school employees, many public school officials are also facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula.1 This propaganda continues despite the fact that critical race theory is not taught in public schools and remains a complex law school and graduate school subject well beyond the scope of a K-12 class

As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.

Bianca Quilantan of Politico reported that the NSBA has now apologized for the letter and withdrawn it in response to the actions of a group called “Parents Defending Education.”

About a month after the association sent its initial plea letter to the Biden administration, the NSBA has faced outrage on all sides — from its members, state attorneys general, lawmakers and parent advocacy groups. These critics say the involvement of the FBI in school board meetings would chill parents’ free speech. “The NSBA seems more concerned about suppressing speech with which it disagrees than real threats of violence,” more than a dozen attorneys general wrote.

— Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, a group “working to reclaim our schools from activists imposing harmful agendas,” said her group has emailed 47 state school board associations for comment on the NSBA’s Sept. 29 letter. Neily said 19 have distanced themselves from the group’s letter, and many state school boards said they had not been made aware of the NSBA’s request ahead of time.

— “On behalf of NSBA, we regret and apologize for the letter,” a memo from NSBA’s board to its members said. “There was no justification for some of the language included 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.”

Parents Defending Education is a rightwing group fighting ”indoctrination” in the schools. Its president formerly worked at the Cato Institute and Independent Women’s Forum.

Before the NSBA withdrew its letter, Anya Kamenetz of NPR wrote about the groups that have organized to harass local school boards. In several states and districts around the country, protestors have been disrupting school board meetings. They’re opposed to mask policies. Vaccine mandates. LGBTQ rights. Sex education. Removing police from schools. Teaching about race and American history, or sometimes, anything called “diversity, equity and inclusion” or even “social-emotional learning.”

So the shouting, screaming, and threats of violence at school board meetings will go on. Who will dare to stand up for civility and democracy? Who will want to run for their local school board?

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