On September 29th the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to President Joe Biden, which it claimed was “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.” The letter specifically asks Biden to order the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Secret Service, and its National Threat Assessment Center to come to the aid of school board members who are “facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula.” Why? Because parents’ objection to the inclusion of CRT in course content are indulging in “heinous actions [that] could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
Just one wee problem: NSBA got ahead of its skis. As of today, 26 state school boards associations out of NSBA’s 47 member states have issued letters distancing themselves from the letter to Biden; 10 have withdrawn membership, participation, or dues from NSBA.
The 26th state to do so is New Jersey. Here’s the letter from New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA), which was sent to member school boards earlier this week. The letter notes that the NSBA letter, which claimed to speak for all school boards, was sent “without the input or approval” from NJSBA and “we did not even receive advance notice it was going out.” NJSBA notes that numerous school board members have been reaching out to express their disagreement wtih the national organization’s action and “NJSBA strongly supports the ability of parents and citizens to voice their opinions at board meetings, which is a fundamental principle of our democracy.” Read the rest below.
It’s unclear if NJSBA will take further action.
Some of you have reached out to us to share your views and concerns regarding recent communication from the National School Boards Association (NSBA).
On Sept. 29, a letter was sent by the NSBA to the Biden administration urging the federal government to help education officials respond to harassment and threats. The letter suggested “actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” and that has been interpreted, in some cases, as an attack on parents and citizens voicing concerns at board of education meetings.
The letter from NSBA was sent without the input or approval of the New Jersey School Boards Association; we did not even receive advance notice that it was going out.
NJSBA does not endorse this letter, nor does it reflect the beliefs and policies of NJSBA.
NJSBA strongly supports the ability of parents and citizens to voice their opinions at board meetings, which is a fundamental principle of our democracy. Community input and local control of boards is at the heart of what NJSBA has advocated for since its founding in 1914. One of the bedrock beliefs of our Association is that the parent-school district partnership is critically important, and that parents are the ultimate advocates for their children’s education.
For those unfamiliar with the structure of NSBA, it is an organization of state school boards associations. However the group has no control or oversight over the New Jersey School Boards Association, and is not a “parent organization” of NJSBA. Nor does it directly represent local boards of education, which are not their members.
NJSBA has expressed its disapproval of NSBA’s statement and will work to ensure that the national organization adheres to the primary mission of enabling the nation’s local boards of education to advance the education, health and safety of the nation’s public school students.
NJSBA is fortunate to have member school boards with a diversity of perspectives. We consider this a strength, and we encourage the healthy exchange of ideas and experiences among our membership. In the event that violent or threatening behavior were to occur at a board of education meeting, local law enforcement is typically well-suited to handle the disturbance.
Boards of education want meetings to be safe, inclusive and productive. A recent issue of School Leader magazine included an article, “Calming the Crowd,” which offered practical advice for managing contentious board meetings. The article can be found here.