- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Nearly 20 state school board associations broke ties with or distanced themselves from the National School Boards Association after it asked President Biden to target parent protests at school boards with federal “domestic terrorism” investigations.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced days after the request that the FBI would go after parent protesters. The get-tough posturing, however, has triggered at least 18 state school board associations to either sever or reexamine their relationships with the NSBA.

“We did not ask for the letter or vet it. We certainly do not approve of many aspects,” the Ohio School Boards Association said in a statement. “OSBA believes strongly in parental engagement, the value of our partnerships with local law enforcement and rejects the labeling of parents as domestic terrorists.”

The Ohio association continued: “A letter was recently sent to all of Ohio’s school boards, superintendents and treasurers to clarify our perspective. We have also made our dissatisfaction known to the NSBA governing board and staff.”

The Ohio association’s board of trustees will discuss their membership and relationship with the NSBA at its meeting in November.

The Washington Times reached out to the NSBA for comment but did not hear back.

The national association, which represented 47 state school board organizations at the time, sent the letter to Mr. Biden on Sept. 29 requesting federal intervention in local school board issues because “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat.”

Days later, Mr. Garland announced in a memo that the FBI would spearhead a federal law enforcement response into a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”

At the time, school board meetings across the country were flashpoints for parents upset about pandemic shutdowns, mask mandates, critical race theory curricula and transgender policies.

Still, state organizations said they were not informed of the NSBA letter to Mr. Biden and did not want federal authorities to get involved with school board disruptions when local law enforcement could handle it. 

Some state organizations are also reviewing their membership with the national association in light of past troubles.

State school board associations that bucked the national group included Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wyoming.

The NSBA, located just minutes away from Capitol Hill in Alexandria, Virginia, also ran afoul of the association in Virginia. The state has become the epicenter of parents’ face-offs with local school boards. Education issues have become dominant in the neck-and-neck Virginia gubernatorial race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin.

In the latest defection, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association announced last week that it was quitting the NSBA.

“No school board member or administrator should ever be the subject of threats or violence — it is shocking that someone would ever use violence to solve a difference of opinion over educational policies However, attempting to solve the problems with a call for federal intervention is not the place to begin, nor a model for promoting greater civility and respect for the democratic process,” the PSBA said in its statement.

The association added, “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.”

Other problems the organization had with the NSBA included financial and pension issues and “disagreement on a governance model and definition of membership, the problems at NSBA have only become more and more entrenched despite recurring promises for action,” according to the Pennsylvania association.

The Alabama Association of School Boards said the NSBA’s letter to the president was “inconsistent” with the associations’ position supporting local control. 

“The decision by NSBA to write this letter is not the first disagreement AASB has had with its national association. In fact, AASB is among at least a dozen states which are trying to impact essential changes in NSBA governance and policy,” the group said. “While AASB believes in working within the system for positive change and has been doing so for years, NSBA has been very slow to respond, so the AASB board is reevaluating the benefits of membership in NSBA.”

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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