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13 State School-Board Groups Say They Were Not Consulted about Request for Federal Intervention

Glen Gibellina, representing “We The People of Manatee County,” speaks during the Manatee County School Board meeting in Bradenton, Fla., September 7, 2021. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

Thirteen state school-board associations claim that their national headquarters never consulted them before requesting federal intervention from the Biden administration to investigate “threats” by parents to determine whether they constitute “domestic terrorism” or “hate crimes” under the Patriot Act.

Upon receipt of a letter from the National School Board Association (NSBA), the Department of Justice announced it would collaborate with the FBI and federal, state, and local officials to investigate and potentially prosecute a number of reported threatening incidents in school districts around the country.

The school-board associations of 13 states, including Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and others, clarified that the NSBA never asked for their input or informed them before sending a letter demanding federal probing, the nonprofit organization Parents Defending Education (PDE) discovered.

Many of the state chapters argued in their responses to PDE that the national organization overstepped its bounds and violated the constitutional authority of local school boards to manage the public-school systems in their states.

The Virginia group wrote: “The decision by NSBA to write this letter is not the first disagreement that VSBA has had with its national association and probably will not be the last, but it is important that our members and the citizens of this state know where VSBA stands.

“While we look for support to our state and federal governments, we do not seek the involvement of federal law enforcement or other officials in local decisions,” the chapter added.

Some state school-board groups, such as Pennsylvania’s, acknowledged that some parent and community engagement at school-board meetings has devolved from civil to unruly, but that adjudication of those potential safety issues falls to local and state law-enforcement departments rather than federal agencies.

North Carolina’s group echoed the same sentiment, writing that criminal activity from community members “should immediately be reported to local law enforcement, which is best equipped to handle such situations and determine if they need further assistance” It reiterated that it is “best left to law enforcement to determine what constitutes intimidation, harassment, and threats.”

In the letter, the national group cited 24 episodes of threatening behavior from parents to justify federal intercession. However, the vast majority of incidents did not qualify as threats of physical violence. Most were tense verbal exchanges between school officials and parents that did not escalate to legitimate threats.

In the wake of the DOJ’s memorandum, many legal scholars have contended that the federal government is meddling in matters that are not properly its domain by auditing local parents and residents for protesting their school boards. Many Republican lawmakers have been outraged by the move, claiming that it’s a form of intimidation designed to chill the speech of parents who criticize progressive policies in schools.

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