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Request for Federal Assistance to Stop Threats and Acts of Violence Against Public Schoolchildren, Public School Board Members, and Other Public School District Officials and Educators

National School Boards Association Asks for Federal Assistance to Stop Threats and Acts of Violence Against Public Education Leaders

Alexandria, Va., September 30, 2021

In a letter to President Biden released this morning, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has asked for federal assistance to stop threats and acts of violence against public schoolchildren, public school board members, and other public school district officials and educators.

“America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat,” reads the letter signed by NSBA President Viola M. Garcia and NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven. “The National School Boards Association respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation.”

The letter asks the federal government to “investigate, intercept, and prevent the current threats and acts of violence against public school officials through existing statutes, executive authority, interagency and intergovernmental task forces, and other extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of our children and educators, to protect interstate commerce, and to preserve public school infrastructure and campuses.”

The letter cites more than twenty instances of threats, harassment, disruption, and acts of intimidation that have transpired during school board meetings and that are targeted at school officials. While local and state law enforcement agencies have worked hard to protect public school officials and restore order, some jurisdictions need assistance, especially around monitoring threat levels. To prevent further harm, NSBA asks that a joint effort be undertaken among federal law enforcement agencies, state and local law enforcement, and public school officials to focus on threats made during public school board meetings, via documented threats transmitted through the U.S. Postal Service, across social media and other online platforms, and around personal properties.

Specifically, NSBA asks that the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Secret Service and its National Threat Assessment Center focus their expertise and resources on the level of risk to public schoolchildren, educators, board members, facilities, and campuses. NSBA also requests that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service intervene against threatening letters and cyberbullying attacks that have been transmitted to students, school board members, district administrators, and other educators.

The letter underscores that local school board members want to hear from their communities on important issues and it acknowledges that such feedback is at the heart of good school board governance and promotion of free speech. It also notes, however, that there “must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders as they do their jobs.”

“As the threats grow and news of extremist hate organizations showing up at school board meetings is being reported, this is a critical time for a proactive approach to deal with this difficult issue,” the letter argues.

The letter comes of the heels of a joint statement issued last week by NSBA and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, calling for an end to threats and violence around safe school opening decisions.

Read NSBA’s complete letter to President Biden at

https://nsba.org/-/media/NSBA/File/nsba-letter-to-president-biden-concerning-threats-to-public-schools-and-school-board-members-92921.pdf

September 29, 2021

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden President of the United States The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20500

National School Boards Association 1680 Duke St. FL2, Alexandria, VA 22314-3493 Phone: (703) 838.6722 • Fax: (703) 683.7590

www.nsba.org

Re: Federal Assistance to Stop Threats and Acts of Violence Against Public Schoolchildren, Public School Board Members, and Other Public School District Officials and Educators

Dear Mr. President:

America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation. Local school board members want to hear from their communities on important issues and that must be at the forefront of good school board governance and promotion of free speech. However, there also must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders as they do their jobs.

NSBA believes immediate assistance is required to protect our students, school board members, and educators who are susceptible to acts of violence affecting interstate commerce because of threats to their districts, families, and personal safety. As our school boards continue coronavirus recovery operations within their respective districts, they are also persevering against other challenges that could impede this progress in a number of communities. Coupled with attacks against school board members and educators for approving policies for masks to protect the health and safety of students and school employees, many public school officials are also facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula.1 This propaganda continues despite the fact that critical race theory is not taught in public schools and remains a complex law school and graduate school subject well beyond the scope of a K-12 class.

On behalf of our state associations and the more than 90,000 school board members who govern our country’s 14,000 local public school districts educating more than 50 million schoolchildren, NSBA appreciates your leadership to end the proliferation of COVID-19 in our communities and our school districts. We also appreciate recent discussions with White House and U.S. Department of Education staff on many critical issues facing public schools, including threats school officials are receiving.

In addition, we applaud your actions to restore resources to school districts that have not yet received their education stabilization funding through the Project SAFE (Supporting America’s Families and Educators) grant program for coronavirus recovery efforts, including the use of face masks and other precautions to help prevent COVID-19 infections among students and educators. Now, we ask that the federal government investigate, intercept, and prevent the current threats and acts of violence against our public school officials through existing statutes, executive authority, interagency and intergovernmental task forces, and other extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of our children and educators, to protect interstate commerce, and to preserve public school infrastructure and campuses.

While local and state law enforcement agencies are working with public school officials in several communities to prevent further disruptions to educational services and school district operations, law enforcement officials in some jurisdictions need assistance – including help with monitoring the threat levels. As these threats and acts of violence have become more prevalent – during public school board meetings, via documented threats transmitted through the U.S. Postal Service, through social media and other online platforms, and around personal properties – NSBA respectfully asks that a joint collaboration among federal law enforcement agencies, state and local law enforcement, and with public school officials be undertaken to focus on these threats.2 NSBA specifically solicits the expertise and resources of the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service, and its National Threat Assessment Center3 regarding the level of risk to public schoolchildren, educators, board members, and facilities/campuses. We also request the assistance of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to intervene against threatening letters and cyberbullying attacks that have been transmitted to students, school board members, district administrators, and other educators.

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. As such, NSBA requests a joint expedited review by the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, and Homeland Security, along with the appropriate training, coordination, investigations, and enforcement mechanisms from the FBI, including any technical assistance necessary from, and state and local coordination with, its National Security Branch and Counterterrorism Division, as well as any other federal agency with relevant jurisdictional authority and oversight. Additionally, NSBA requests that such review examine appropriate enforceable actions against these crimes and acts of violence under the Gun-Free School Zones Act, the PATRIOT Act in regards to domestic terrorism, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights statute, the Conspiracy Against Rights statute, an Executive Order to enforce all applicable federal laws for the protection of students and public school district personnel, and any related measure. As the threats grow and news of extremist hate organizations showing up at school board meetings is being reported, this is a critical time for a proactive approach to deal with this difficult issue.

These threats or actual acts of violence against our school districts are impacting the delivery of educational services to students and families, as many districts receive federal funds and subsidies for services to millions of students with disabilities, health screenings and supplemental supports for disadvantaged students, child nutrition, broadband connectivity, educator development, school safety activities, career and technical education, and more. School board meetings have been disrupted in California4, Florida5, Georgia6, and other states7 because of local directives for mask coverings to protect students and educators from COVID-19.

An individual was arrested in Illinois for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct during a school board meeting.8 During two separate school board meetings in Michigan9, an individual yelled a Nazi salute in protest to masking requirements, and another individual prompted the board to call a recess because of opposition to critical race theory.

In New Jersey10, Ohio11, and other states12, anti-mask proponents are inciting chaos during board meetings. In Virginia13, an individual was arrested, another man was ticketed for trespassing, and a third person was hurt during a school board meeting discussion distinguishing current curricula from critical race theory and regarding equity issues. In other states including Washington14, Texas15, Wisconsin16, Wyoming17, and Tennessee18, school boards have been confronted by angry mobs and forced to end meetings abruptly. A resident in Alabama, who proclaimed himself as “vaccine police,” has called school administrators while filming himself on Facebook Live.19

Other groups are posting watchlists against school boards and spreading misinformation that boards are adopting critical race theory curriculum and working to maintain online learning by haphazardly attributing it to COVID-19.20

In Ohio, an individual mailed a letter to a school board member labeling the return address on the envelope from a local neighborhood association and then enclosing threatening hate mail from another entity.21 This correspondence states that, “We are coming after you and all the members on the … BoE [Board of Education].” This hate mail continues by stating, “You are forcing them to wear mask—for no reason in this world other than control. And for that you will pay dearly.” Among other incendiaries, this same threat also calls the school board member a “filthy traitor,” implies loss of pension funds, and labels the school board as Marxist. Earlier this month, a student in Tennessee was mocked during a board meeting for advocating masks in schools after testifying that his grandmother, who was an educator, died because of COVID-19.22 These threats and acts of violence are affecting our nation’s democracy at the very foundational levels, causing school board members

– many who are not paid – to resign immediately and/or discontinue their service after their respective terms.23 Further, this increasing violence is a clear and present danger to civic participation, in which other citizens who have been contemplating service as either an elected or appointed school board member have reconsidered their decision.

NSBA believes public discussions and transparency by local school board members are important for the safe and effective operations of schools.24 It is vital that public discourses be encouraged in a safe and open environment, in which varying viewpoints can be offered in a peaceful manner. Our children are watching the examples of the current debates and we must encourage a positive dialogue even with different opinions. However, with such acute threats and actions that are disruptive to our students’ well-being, to the safety of public school officials and personnel, and to interstate commerce, we urge the federal government’s intervention against individuals or hate groups who are targeting our schools and educators.

NSBA is committed to working with you and your Administration as a partner to address this crisis affecting America’s public schools, and greatly appreciates your prompt attention to our requests. We stand ready to work with you.

Respectfully,

Viola M. Garcia, EdD President Chip Slaven, Esq.

Interim Executive Director & notes

1 The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), “Fact Sheet: Demonstrations over Critical Race Theory in the United States,” July 14, 2021,

https://acleddata.com/acleddatanew/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/ACLED_Fact-Sheet_CRT-Demos_2021.pdf.

2 The Herald Editorial Board, HeraldNet, “Editorial: Mob’s actions at school board meeting unacceptable,” September

1, 2021, https://www.heraldnet.com/opinion/editorial-mobs-actions-at-school-board-meeting-unacceptable/. 3 U.S. Secret Service, National Threat Assessment Center, “Averting Targeted School Violence,” March 2021, https://www.secretservice.gov/sites/default/files/reports/2021- 03/USSS%20Averting%20Targeted%20School%20Violence.2021.03.pdf.

4 Elizabeth Marie Himchak, Poway News Chieftain/ Rancho Bernando News Journal, “Protesters disrupt Poway Unified board meeting, cause its adjournment,” September 9, 2021, https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/pomerado- news/news/schools/story/2021-09-09/protesters-disrupt-poway-unified-board-meeting-force-its-ag.

5 Ryan McKinnon, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “Sarasota school board may limit public input after some meetings get

disorderly,” September 20, 2021, https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/education/2021/09/20/sarasota- school-board-may-limit-public-input-after-meetings-gone-wild/8417784002/.

6 Alia Malik, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Anti-mask crowd disrupts Gwinnett school board meeting,” May 21, 2021, https://www.ajc.com/news/anti-mask-crowd-disrupts-gwinnett-school-board- meeting/IYO7R6GHJ5DTLEFCQHER7V3GBA/

7 Julie Wootton-Greener, Las Vegas Review-Journal, “School board meeting turns contentious over COVID-19 policies,” August 12, 2021, https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/education/school-board-meeting-turns-contentious-over-covid- 19-policies-2418652/.

WAVY.com, “Norfolk school officials, police monitoring threats made toward Norview schools,” September 21, 2021, https://www.wavy.com/news/local-news/norfolk/norfolk-school-officials-police-monitoring-threats-made- toward-norview-schools/.

WBTV-Charlotte, “Gov. Roy Cooper addresses ‘threats, bullying, intimidation’ at school board meetings over mask requirements,” September 21, 2021, https://www.wbtv.com/2021/09/21/gov-roy-cooper-address-fight-against-covid- 19-north-carolina/.

8 WGEM, “Mendon man arrested following disruption at Unity School board meeting,” September 2, 2021, https://wgem.com/2021/09/02/mendon-man-arrested-following-disruption-at-unity-school-board-meeting/.

9 Steve Neavling, Detroit Metro Times, “Nazi salute, insults hurled at chaotic Birmingham schools meeting over mask

mandate,” August 19, 2021, https://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2021/08/19/nazi-salute-insults-hurled- at-ruckus-birmingham-schools-meeting-over-mask-mandate.

Kalie Marantette, WLNS.com, “Grand Ledge school board goes into recess due to public ‘disruption,’” June 16, 2021, https://www.wlns.com/news/grand-ledge-school-board-goes-into-recess-due-to-public-disruption/.

10 Joe Strupp, Asbury Park Press, “NJ mask mandate for students sparks school board disruption, suspends meeting,” August 26, 2021, https://www.app.com/story/news/education/in-our-schools/2021/08/26/nj-school-mask-mandate- sparks-disruption-boe/5585283001/.

11 Maia Belay, Fox8, “Sheriff deputies called to tense Nordonia Hills school board meeting due to mask policy,” August 31, 2021, https://fox8.com/news/sheriff-deputies-called-to-tense-nordonia-hills-school-board-meeting-due-to- mask-policy/.

12 Pete Bannon, The Delaware County Daily Times, “Mask protest brings police to Garnet Valley School Board meeting,” August 25, 2021, Updated August 26, 2021, https://www.delcotimes.com/2021/08/25/mask-protest-brings-cops-to- garnet-valley-school-board-meeting/.

Brenley Goertzen, Salon.com, “Anti-mask mob swarms school board meeting,” August 12, 2021, https://www.salon.com/2021/08/12/anti-mask-mob-swarm-school-board-meeting/.

13 Drew Wilder, Jackie Bensen, Andrea Swalec and NBC4 Washington Staff, NBCWashington.com, “‘The Meeting Has Degenerated': 1 Arrest, 1 Injury at Loudoun Schools Meeting on Equity,” June 22, 2021, Updated June 23, 2021, https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/northern-virginia/loudoun-school-board-transgender-student-policy-race- equity/2708185/.

Adele Uphaus, The Free Lance-Star, “Unruly crowd causes Spotsylvania School Board meeting to adjourn after 13 minutes,” August 24, 2021, https://fredericksburg.com/news/local/unruly-crowd-causes-spotsylvania-school-board- meeting-to-adjourn-after-13-minutes/article_1d39b83c-fa43-5626-acca-4e2768a811de.html.

14 Emily Gilbert, Whidbey News Times, “Oak Harbor school board clears the room after audience shouts disrupt meeting,” August 13, 2021, https://www.whidbeynewstimes.com/news/oak-harbor-school-board-clears-the-room-after- audience-shouts-disrupt-meeting/.

15 Talia Richman and Brayden Garcia, The Dallas Morning News, “‘Critical race theory’ roils Fort Worth school board

meeting as Texas braces for continued fight,” June 22, 2021, https://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/2021/06/22/critical-race-theory-roils-fort-worth-school-board-meeting- as-texas-braces-for-continued-fight/.

16 WBAY news staff and Jason Zimmerman, WBAY.com, “Oshkosh School Board meeting postponed after protesters disrupt it, argument breaks out,” August 25, 2021, Updated August 26, 2021, https://www.wbay.com/2021/08/25/oshkosh-school-board-meeting-called-off-after-protesters-enter-board-members- walk-out/.

17 Margaret Austin, Wyoming Tribune Eagle via Wyoming News Exchange, Pinedale Roundup, “School board meeting

over COVID stopped after disruption,” August 4, 2021, https://pinedaleroundup.com/article/school-board-meeting- over-covid-stopped-after-disruption.

18 Jackie Delpilar, WZTV Nashville, “Anti-mask protesters show lack of empathy at recent Middle Tennessee school meetings,” September 12, 2021, https://fox17.com/news/local/anti-mask-protesters-show-lack-of-empathy-at-recent- middle-tennessee-school-meetings.

19 Aubrey Bailey, WHNT.com, “‘If you give one more shot, you yourself will be executed’ Alabama man tells Missouri pharmacists,” August 24, 2021, https://whnt.com/news/alabama-news/if-you-give-one-more-shot-you-yourself-will-be- executed-alabama-man-tells-missouri-pharmacists/.

20 Nick Surgery, Documented, “TPUSA launches project targeting school board members,” August 20, 2021,

https://substack.documented.net/p/tpusa-school-board-watchlist

21 Lindsey Mills, WBNS, “‘Disturbing’: Worthington school board member receives threats for masks in schools,” September 21, 2021, https://www.10tv.com/article/news/local/worthington-school-board-member-receives-threats-for- masks-in-schools/530-f3c04240-76b4-456b-aad9-8555397b5427.

22 Kim Bellware, The Washington Post, “Student mocked at school board meeting after sharing that his grandmother died of covid-19,” September 10, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/09/10/grady-knox- tennessee/?utm_campaign=wp_main&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR29rIKzlY0tz4p0yB5 VJDk_n_oIj5AJPp6oiEvzJC1oRAYsMMMOPb8EvjY.

23 Andy Humbles, The Nashville Tennessean, “Jon White resigns as Wilson County School Board member,” September

8, 2021, https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/wilson/2021/09/08/jon-white-resigns-wilson-county-school- board-member/5750949001/.

Terri Pederson, The Daily Citizen, “Beaver Dam school board member resigns citing safety concerns for family,” September 20, 2021, Updated September 21, 2021, https://www.wiscnews.com/bdc/news/local/education/beaver- dam-school-board-member-resigns-citing-safety-concerns-for-family/article_066fc86c-4356-5a00-9940- 187e02eb7340.html.

24 National School Boards Association and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, “NSBA, AASA Issue Joint Statement Calling for End to Threats and Violence Around Safe School Opening Decisions,” September 22, 2021, https://www.nsba.org/News/2021/end-threats-violence-joint-statement.



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