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National School Board Group Communicated with White House while Crafting Letter Likening Parents to Terrorists

Attorney General Merrick Garland appears before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., October 21, 2021. (Michael Reynolds/Pool/Reuters)

The National School Board Association communicated with the White House before releasing a letter requesting federal intervention to investigate whether alleged threats leveled by parents against school-board members qualify as domestic terrorism under the Patriot Act.

Email correspondence obtained by nonprofit Parents Defending Education and first reported by the Washington Free Beacon shows that White House officials coordinated with the NSBA to iron out the details of the letter before it was officially published.

NSBA interim executive director Chip Slaven wrote, “in talks over several weeks with White House staff, they requested additional information on some of the specific threats, so the letter also details many of the incidents that have been occurring.”

In response to the letter, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo directing the Justice Department to collaborate with the FBI and federal, state, and local law enforcement to probe and potentially prosecute parents for making violent threats against school-board members.

Not only did the NSBA not consult or inform at least 19 state school-board association chapters before sending the letter to the Biden administration, but the group also failed to consult its own board of directors before sending it.

In another email exchange, a board member says, “the Board of Directors should have been consulted before a letter like this was sent out publicly, and no less to the President of the United States and the National Press.”

Like many of the state chapters, which revealed to PDE that they would have opposed a plea for federal involvement and deferred instead to state and local law enforcement to manage school-district affairs, the board member said the NSBA’s statement was not “reasonable” and used “extreme” language.

“I also agree that the letter took a stance that went beyond what many of us would consider to be reasonable and used terms that were extreme, and asked for action by the Federal Government that many of us would not request,” the member said. “Local control has been a stalwart of our principles, and we do not want to abandon that concept now.”

Despite the positive intentions behind the letter, it has exacerbated conflict and further deteriorated relations between parents and the administrators they elected to provide a quality education for their children, the member suggested.

“Rather than helping our cause and calming the waters, this letter has re-awakened hostilities that were just beginning to finally calm down as the things many of us put in place were having a positive effect on student safety, learning, and attendance,” the member added.

While Garland relied on the letter to substantiate his claim that there has been a “disturbing uptick” in violent threats against school personnel, the vast majority of the incidents cited in the letter did not involve threats of violence, and the most extreme examples, in which potentially criminal threats were made, fall squarely under local jurisdiction. Pressed on the details of the various incidents cited in the letter during his congressional testimony on Thursday, Garland said he wasn’t familiar with the examples given.

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