The National School Boards Association (NSBA) considered calling for the federal government to use the “Army National Guard and its Military Police” against parents who made threats toward school officials before deleting the language from its September 29 letter to President Joe Biden, according to an independent review released on Friday.
The final version of the NSBA letter urged Biden’s Department of Justice to crack down on “threats of violence and acts of intimidation” at local school board meetings which “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” Days later, Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the FBI to investigate a recent spike in “harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against school board members — a move seen by many parents as an attempt to chill free speech among those concerned about progressive curricula in public schools.
The NSBA has since apologized, explaining that there was “no justification for some of the language included in the letter” and retaining attorney Philip Kiko of the law firm Michael Best & Friedrich to examine the events and procedures surrounding the letter. The firm’s independent review showed that NSBA leadership went back and forth on a call for military intervention in certain cases.
One line — later deleted by then-interim CEO Chip Slaven — said: “We ask that the Army National Guard and its Military Police be deployed to certain school districts and related events where students and school personnel have been subjected to acts and threats of violence.”
Slaven said on September 22 he initially “went back and forth” on the decision to include the sentence, according to a comprehensive timeline of events included in the review. “I think we should leave it out for now. I am concerned it could be seen as us asking for too much of a federal intervention. However, if things start to get bad, we can revisit.”
The call for potential military intervention was deleted on September 24 — five days before the letter was sent to Biden.
One month after the final letter was publicized, a report from The Washington Free Beacon revealed that the Biden administration collaborated with the National School Boards Association before the document was sent. While the original letter did acknowledge “recent discussions with White House and U.S. Department of Education staff on many critical issues facing public schools, including threats school officials are receiving,” emails obtained by Parents Defending Education showed the NSBA was in talks with the White House before the letter was released — and that the letter was sent without prior approval from the organization’s board.
The NSBA quickly began to collapse in the wake of the incident. In December, The Washington Examiner reported that the National School Boards Association “is looking at a shortfall of at least $1.1 million” as multiple state-level school boards associations distanced themselves from the national entity.
For example, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association wrote: “The most recent national controversy surrounding a letter to President Biden suggesting that some parents should be considered domestic terrorists was the final straw.”
“This misguided approach has made our work and that of many school boards more difficult,” the memo asserted. “It has fomented more disputes and cast partisanship on our work on behalf of school directors when we seek to find common ground and support all school directors in their work, no matter their politics. Now is not the time for more politics and posturing, it is the time for solutions to the many challenges facing education.”
“It has been a struggle for the board and leadership of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association to identify a reason to continue to be a part of a federation that is not focused on bipartisanship, civility and seeking solutions to the internal problems that have plagued the national organization for so long.”