‘Should have never been sent’: NSBA completes probe on letter asking WH to equate parents with domestic terrorist

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has concluded its review of a controversial letter that asked last year for the Justice Department to investigate parents angered by progressive policies and curricula they feel is inappropriate as “domestic terrorists,” and it promises to never do it again.

“The letter directly contradicts our core commitments to parent engagement, local control, and nonpartisanship,” said NSBA executive director & CEO John Heim in a statement released Friday. “The sentiments shared in the letter do not represent the views or position of the NSBA. The NSBA does not seek or advocate for federal law enforcement intervention at local school board meetings.”

According to the review, it was the NSBA’s former Interim Director and CEO Chip Slaven who was to blame for both the “origin and substance of the letter,” which was penned in September 2021. While it was reviewed by four NSBA Board Officers, “the letter was not widely reviewed or approved within the organization, and the finalized letter was not disclosed to the full NSBA Board of Directors or NSBA members until after it was submitted.”

As previously reported by American Wire, the letter in question urged the Biden administration to invoke such statutes as the USA PATRIOT Act in response to perceived threats and violence toward school board members by frustrated, angry parents. The parents’ protests, the letter argued, could be “the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”

In January, more than 100 conservative groups and leaders called on Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to resign over allegations that he collaborated with the NSBA to write the letter.

 

While the review does indicate that Slaven collaborated with the White House, it “did not find direct or indirect evidence suggesting the Administration requested the letter.”

“Sending the letter without full Board approval highlighted a concerning lack of internal process and accountability and harmed the mission of our organization,” said Heim. “While the events as recounted in the review are unfortunate, there are a number of important takeaways that will help our organization as we move forward.”

NSBA Board President Frank S. Henderson, Jr. vowed there will never be a repeat of such a letter and looked to the future of the organization.

“As you saw in the report, a draft of the letter was shared with the Board Officers,” Henderson said. “We regret that we did not review the letter more closely at the time. We apologized in 2021 and acknowledged that the letter should have never been sent–the sentiments shared do not represent the Board’s views or the views of the NSBA. We are focused now on implementing processes to ensure this does not happen again.”

To that end, the NSBA has re-emphasized what it calls its “core commitments as an organization,” including a claim to be nonpartisan advocates for “federal policies that strengthen public education”; a belief that “decisions about a child’s education are best made at the local level”; and a commitment to “parent engagement.”

The NSBA understands “that the role of parents in their child’s education is paramount,” according to the statement.

With respect to policy changes, the NSBA stated it has, among other things:

  • Amended our constitution to refine the scope of our advocacy to ‘a united, non-partisan national movement.’
  • Adopted a resolution opposing federal intrusion and the expansion of executive authority by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies in the absence of authorizing legislation.
  • Amended our belief statement to include the following: “NSBA believes school boards must lead through community engagement, particularly with parents and guardians of the students they serve. NSBA urges school boards to encourage and support partnerships between schools, communities, community organizations, families and local government that bring together critical resources and enhance strategies that help students master academic and life skills and develop civic responsibility, and address students’ emotional, social and physical well-being at school and beyond.”
  • The Board of Directors is working to take immediate action based on these findings to develop new processes and policies, including clear protocols for communication with the Administration and Congress and governance structures that fully define the role of the Board of Directors and Executive Director.

 

“Looking ahead, I am eager to continue our joint focus on the most important work at hand–ensuring that every child has equitable access to excellent education,” said Heim. “We must continue to prioritize the pressing topics impacting our students and teachers–this work includes supporting historically disadvantaged students, increasing broadband internet access to close the ‘homework gap,’ ensuring every classroom is staffed with a highly qualified teacher, supporting students with disabilities and mental health needs, and addressing the learning loss stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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