A top executive at the National School Boards Association was aware of Attorney General Merrick Garland’s notorious schools memo before it was published, according to an email released Monday.
Parents Defending Education (PDE) posted an internal email from NSBA board member Pam Doyle in which she tells another board member that Chip Slaven, then-interim executive director, had advance notice of the Oct. 4 directive.
“I understand Chip knew about the U.S. AG directives before they were published,” said Ms. Doyle in an Oct. 5 email to Beverly Slough. “So much for communicating with the BOD [board of directors].”
The email fed concerns over possible coordination between the NSBA and the Biden administration on the Sept. 29 letter raising the specter of domestic terrorism at rowdy school board meetings, and the Justice Department’s response.
The memo directed the FBI to get involved, prompting Republicans to accuse Mr. Garland of weaponizing the DOJ against parents upset about issues such as critical race theory and mask mandates.
The NSBA board disavowed the letter signed by Mr. Slaven and NSBA president Viola M. Garcia, which prompted 19 state chapters to take steps to withdraw membership, participation or dues, according to PDE.
Even so, Mr. Garland has not rescinded the memo, saying it was aimed at countering “violence or threats of violence,” not chilling debate over school policies.
Previously released internal NSBA emails obtained by Parents Defending Education through open-records requests include one in which Mr. Slaven says he was in contact with the White House staff before sending the letter.
In another email, an NSBA official recalled that Mr. Slaven said that Education Secretary Miguel Cardona had solicited the letter, which his office has denied.
Mr. Slaven is “no longer affiliated with NSBA,” according to the organization. Ms. Garcia’s term as president runs through April.
John Heim, the association’s newly hired executive director and CEO, said the NSBA is launching “an independent comprehensive review of the circumstances around the September 2021 letter.”
“The sentiments shared in the letter do not represent the views or position of NSBA towards parents, and directly contradict our core commitment to parent engagement — we sent the wrong message, and we have apologized,” Mr. Heim said in a statement.
The review announced Feb. 4 will be conducted by Philip Kiko, former House of Representatives chief administrative officer, and the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm.
“The review will seek to address as many questions as possible, and NSBA will share the findings with their members and the Hill as quickly as possible,” Mr. Heim said. “We take this matter seriously and will continue to take appropriate action.”