Forbes | By Alison Durkee | September 30, 2021
An organization representing public school boards across the country asked President Joe Biden Wednesday for federal help—including law enforcement protection from the FBI—to combat the “immediate threat” to their schools from violent threats from people that oppose mask mandates and the purported teaching of “critical race theory.”
- The National School Board Association (NSBA), which represents local elected school board officials that oversee more than 50 million U.S. public school students, sent a letter to Biden calling for assistance to combat the “growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation” against students, educators and school officials.
- The NSBA cited numerous examples of violence and intimidation by “angry mobs” at local school board meetings—including once when an individual was arrested for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct—as well as threats sent through the U.S. Postal Service and on social media.
- The organization wants a “joint collaboration” between the federal government, state and local law enforcement, and school officials to address the threats, and asks for the “expertise and resources” of federal intelligence agencies.
- Believing the threats could constitute “a form of domestic terorrism and hate crimes,” the group also wants an “expedited review” to determine how they should be classified, and for the FBI to provide “training, coordination, investigations, and enforcement mechanisms.”
- The group also wants the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to “intervene” against acts of intimidation sent by mail.
“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,” the NSBA wrote. “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.”
Though the purported teaching of “critical race theory” in public schools has become a hot-button issue among Republicans, leading some states to pass laws against its teaching, the school board association slammed the opposition to it as “propaganda,” noting 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.”
Mask policies have become a significant controversy as a new school year has gotten underway amid the spread of the delta variant, which has left children ineligible for vaccination particularly vulnerable. State-level policies both mandating masks and prohibiting mask mandates have been opposed by both parents and individual school districts, and local masking policies have often led to contentious school board meetings and protests. In addition to the threats of violence school officials are now facing, two school districts in Florida have had state funding withheld that’s equivalent to its school board members’ salaries because the districts imposed mask mandates, and the state is moving forward with potential punishments against an additional nine districts. The Biden administration has responded by providing federal grants to schools that have had their funding slashed because they imposed Covid-19 mitigation measures.