An organization that represents more than 90,000 members of school boards around the country has sent a letter to the White House seeking help and support as school boards across the U.S. increasingly deal with raucous parents pushing back on controversial curriculum and materials.
The letter from the National School Board Association, dated Wednesday, was addressed specifically to President Joe Biden and sought “immediate assistance” for school board members, teachers, and even students after an increase in threats and violence that have come from the adoption of critical race theory curriculum, the inclusion of sexually explicit books in libraries, and mask mandates in response to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” the letter from NSBA President Viola Garcia and NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven began.
“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,” the letter continues.
The organization said that “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,” it adds.
“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,” the NSBA officials note.
Critical race theory curriculum, once relegated to the halls of academia and institutions of higher learning, has increasingly been introduced in public primary schools in recent years, drawing blowback from parents and groups who find its core tenet — that all American institutions were built during a time of slavery, therefore, the country is systemically racist — to be divisive.
Also, parents have increasingly shown up at school board meetings to complain about sexually explicit books and other materials in school libraries.
Some meetings have involved shouting matches between parents as well as violent encounters and arrests by police.
In their letter, Garcia and Slaven appear to suggest that there could be a domestic terrorism element to parental pushback in requesting help from various federal law enforcement agencies.
“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,” they wrote.
They went on to request “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.”
On Thursday, when White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked if Biden had seen the letter and if he was considering sending federal assistance, she said “we take the security of public servants and elected officials across the country very seriously” while calling the threats “horrible.”
“Obviously, there are going to be different law enforcement authorities that will be related to each community and — where this is happening, so we’d certainly refer you to them about any specific threats. And we’d encourage individuals to report any threats they face to local and state law enforcement agencies. And we’re continuing to explore what more can be done from across the administration,” Psaki said, according to The Hill.
She added: “But again, a lot of this will be local law enforcement and how they can help ensure these school board members feel protected.”