The National School Boards Association issued an apology late Friday for urging federal authorities to target unruly school board meetings, a missive that spurred Attorney General Merrick Garland’s much-decried decision to bring in the FBI.
In a memo to state affiliates, the NSBA board of directors cited the Sept. 29 letter to President Biden from NSBA President Viola M. Garcia and interim executive director and CEO Chip Slaven that raised the specter of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.
“On behalf of NSBA, we regret and apologize for the letter,” said the NSBA memo. “There was no justification for some of the language included in the letter. We should have had a better process in place to allow for consultation on a communication of this significance. We apologize also for the strain and stress this situation has caused you and your organizations.”
Rep. Elise Stefanik, New York Republican, responded to the memo by asking Mr. Garland to “immediately reverse the FBI’s targeting of parents as ‘domestic terrorists,’” while Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, called on Mr. Garland to resign.
“It was a dangerous abuse of authority that has badly compromised the Justice Dept’s integrity and Garland’s. He should resign,” tweeted Mr. Hawley.
Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, said after the apology was released that a “$19 million trade association has nothing on a bunch of mad moms.”
The apology came after nearly 20 state school board associations moved to cut ties or distance themselves from the NSBA over its call for a federal response into actions that “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
The letter, however, cited mainly news reports about angry parents at contentious school board meetings. One parent who was arrested in June, Scott Smith, later said that he had sought to confront the Loudoun County board over an alleged sexual assault against his daughter in a school bathroom.
Mr. Garland defended Thursday his decision to marshal federal law-enforcement resources under quizzing from House Judiciary Committee Republicans who accused him of siccing federal agents on parents raising objections to, for example, critical race theory and mask mandates.
Mr. Garland insisted “we are not investigating peaceful protest or parent involvement at school board meetings.”
“We are only concerned about violence, threats of violence against school administrators, teachers, staff, people like your mother, a teacher, that is what we’re worried about,” he said. “We are worried about that across the board.”
The NSBA memo also said that the association has launched a formal review of its “processes and procedures,” and that parents should have a role in decision making about their children’s education.
“As we’ve reiterated since the letter was sent, we deeply value not only the work of local school boards that make important contributions within our communities, but also the voices of parents, who should and must continue to be heard when it comes to decisions about their children’s education, health, and safety,” the association said.