- The National School Board Association asked the Biden administration for help dealing with increased threats.
- School board meetings have become the epicenter of a culture war over the coronavirus in recent months.
- The organization requested assistance from federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI and DOJ.
School board meetings across the country have grown so contentious in recent months, that the president of the National School Boards Association is asking the Biden administration to step in and provide assistance in dealing with the increasing incidents of violence and intimidation.
“America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat,” the governing body’s president, Viola M. Garcia, and interim executive director, Chip Slaven, wrote in a letter addressed to the president on Wednesday.
The group requested assistance from federal law enforcement and said “immediate” help is necessary to protect students, educators, and school board members who have all become susceptible to acts of violence amid the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Community school board meetings, once under-attended staples of local government, have transformed into the epicenter of culture wars being waged over the coronavirus and critical race theory. Parents have threatened school board members, accosted fellow parents, and even stripped down to their underwear mid-meeting in an effort to make their voices heard.
“Local school board members want to hear from their communities on important issues,” Garcia and Slaven wrote.
“However, there also must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders as they do their jobs,” they added.
The group’s letter cited instances of angry mobs of anti-mask parents descending upon meetings, as well as an incident in Virginia that resulted in an arrest after a school board discussion about critical race theory turned violent.
The academic movement, which suggests racism is built into American institutions, sparked a political firestorm over the summer, with several conservative-run states going so far as to pass legislation banning the framework from being used in schools. The outrage over critical race theory has also spread to school-board meetings as students returned to the classroom in the last two months.
In September, Insider’s Ashley Collman spoke to seven teachers who teach in states where anti-CRT legislation has been passed or is being considered, and the educators said much of the conservative backlash to the college-level framework is overblown. Still, the teachers expressed fear that parents’ misplaced anger could have a “chilling” effect on education.
The other hot-button issue that has been debated endlessly in school board meetings in recent weeks has been COVID mitigation methods in schools, like masks and vaccines. A growing movement of “parents’ choice” advocates has fought hard against mask mandates in schools.
In their letter to Biden, the school board association requested a joint collaboration between federal law enforcement agencies and state and local law enforcement be undertaken to focus on tracking the threats, specifically asking for help from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Secret Service. The organization also asked the administration to have the US Postal Inspection service intervene against threatening letters and cyberbullying attacks.
“As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” the letter said.
The White House on Thursday said the administration is investigating further steps it can take to keep public officials safe.
“Obviously, these threats to school board members is horrible; they’re doing their jobs,” spokesperson Jen Psaki said. “We’re continuing to explore what more can be done across the administration but, again, a lot of this will be local law enforcement.”