The National School Boards Association released an apology Friday night for a letter sent earlier this month to President Joe Biden in which the organization voiced concerns about parents increasingly showing up at local board meetings to voice their displeasure about materials and curriculum their children are being exposed to during classes.
In particular, the organization offered a mea culpa for suggesting that the actions of some parents at school board meetings could rise to the level of “domestic terrorism.”
“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,” the NSBA noted in the memo. “We wanted to write to you directly to address this matter.”
“On behalf of NSBA, we regret and apologize for the letter,” the memo continued, adding that “there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter.”
The initial letter was addressed specifically to Biden and sought his “immediate assistance” for members of local school boards, teachers, and students from alleged threats of violence and intimidation from parents upset about divisive critical race theory curriculum as well as sexually inappropriate books in school libraries, among other issues.
“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 noted further.
The organization also 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 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, suggesting the administration use existing federal statutes to punish offending parents.
The letter spurred U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to order federal prosecutors and the FBI to work with local authorities to investigate parental behavior, an action that drew intense backlash from Republicans and parents.
“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” said Garland in a statement. “Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety.”
But on Thursday during a hearing on Capitol Hill, Garland disputed Republican suggestions that his department considers some parents to be domestic terrorists, noting that the “Justice Department supports and defends the First Amendment right of parents to complain as vociferously as they wish about the education of their children, about the curriculum taught in the schools.”
“That is not what the memorandum is about at all, nor does it use the words ‘domestic terrorism’ or ‘PATRIOT Act,’” Garland added.
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