- The Washington Times - Friday, May 20, 2022

The National School Boards Association is blaming the organization’s former Interim director and CEO, Chip Slaven, for masterminding the letter to President Biden asking for parents to be investigated as domestic terrorists.

Mr. Slaven kept the NSBA board of directors in the dark, according to an independent review of the episode that was commissioned by current NSBA officials.

“The letter directly contradicts our core commitments to parent engagement, local control and nonpartisanship,” said NSBA Executive Director and CEO John Heim. “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.”

Mr. Slaven, in a statement to The Washington Times, however, defended himself: “The attack on public schools is very real, as evidenced by the many false attacks on NSBA’s letter.

“The organization owes no one an apology for standing up against violence and threats. I am saddened to see that the current leadership of NSBA appears to be afraid to stand up for local school board members and the students who attend public schools. I commend the nation’s local school boards who are serving during these challenging times — I stand with them.”

The September 2021 letter sparked widespread criticism of the NSBA and the Biden administration. Scores of state school boards quit the association.

What’s more, whistleblowers within the Justice Department recently accused the FBI of using counterterrorism resources to go after parents who complained to school boards about mask mandates, coronavirus shutdowns and politicized school instruction.

According to the NSBA, the letter was “principally directed, reviewed and approved by” Mr. Slaven, who was responsible for both the “origin and substance of the letter.”

Other than a review by four board officers, the NSBA said the letter was not widely reviewed or approved within the organization and that the finalized letter was not disclosed to the organization’s full board of directors or members until after it was sent to the White House.

The review points to collaboration between Mr. Slaven and the White House, but “did not find direct or indirect evidence suggesting the administration requested the letter.”

Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, said the NSBA’s investigation still implicated members of the Biden administration.

“As a result of the NSBA’s internal investigation, the American people now know that Biden administration officials did indeed work with NSBA on the since-retracted letter requesting federal intervention in school board issues,” Ms. Neily said in a statement. “It is inexcusable that a senior White House adviser would have the audacity to collaborate on a public request to use the Patriot Act against families.”

State school board associations began to break ties with the NSBA in late October following the revelation that Attorney General Merrick Garland had suggested the FBI would go after parents.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republican lawmakers said the review confirmed that the “Biden administration colluded with the NSBA to abuse the counterterrorism authorities of the federal government and investigate America’s parents.”  

“Within days of the NSBA releasing its September 29th letter likening parents to ‘domestic terrorists,’ President Biden even called the NSBA to thank them,” the GOP lawmakers said in a joint statement. “The NSBA has since disavowed the letter and although the DOJ has failed to provide any evidence to justify launching an investigation on American parents, Attorney General Garland still refuses to rescind his anti-parent directive.”

The letter also was signed by House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Oversight Committee ranking member James Comer of Kentucky and Education Committee ranking member Virginia Foxx of North Carolina.

The NSBA represented 47 state school board organizations at the time the letter was sent. The letter asked for federal intervention in protests at school boards because “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat.”

Days after the letter was sent, Mr. Garland, in a memo, announced that the bureau would lead a federal law enforcement response to a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

After the independent review, the NSBA’s Mr. Heim said sending the letter without “full board approval highlighted a concerning lack of internal process and accountability and harmed the mission of our organization.”

The organization said it was implementing several actions based on the review’s findings. These include amending its constitution to confine its advocacy to “a united, nonpartisan national movement.”

The NSBA also said it would adopt a resolution that opposes federal intrusion and expansion of executive authority by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies in the absence of authorizing legislation.

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

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