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Missouri and Ohio school board associations leave National School Board Association over 'domestic terrorists' letter

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The school board associations in Missouri and Ohio on Tuesday separately announced they are ending their membership with the National School Boards Association over a letter the NSBA sent to President Joe Biden last month requesting federal law enforcement to intervene at local school board meetings.

Ohio School Board Association President Robert Heard and Chief Executive Officer Richard Lewis wrote to the NSBA to inform the organization that "OSBA will not continue its membership in the National School Boards Association."

"OSBA's decision to terminate membership and affiliation with the NSBA Association is a direct result of the letter sent by you to President Joe Biden last month," they wrote. "The letter purported to be sent on behalf of state associations and school board members across the nation. This assertion could not be further from the truth. OSBA was not notified of the letter, nor were we asked for our thoughts on the matter.

"If we had been consulted, we would have strongly disagreed with NSBA's decision to request federal intervention as well as your claims of domestic terrorism and hate crimes," the letter stated.

Similarly, the Missouri School Board Association said Tuesday the NSBA has shown it does not align with the state organization's principles of local governance.

"We also believe that no school board member or educator should ever have to endure threats of violence or acts of intimidation against themselves or their families for making these difficult decisions. However, attempting to address that issue with federal intervention should not be the first step in most cases, and is antithetical to our long-standing tradition of local control," the MSBA said.

"Further, the use of inflammatory terms in the NSBA letter is not a model for promoting greater civility and respect for the democratic process."

In September, the NSBA wrote to Biden that school board members nationwide were "under an immediate threat" from concerned parents and residents opposed to critical race theory, transgender policies, and COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates. The letter requested federal assistance in response to incidents of violence at raucous school board protests and alleged threats made against some school board members. It also likened protesting parents to "domestic terrorists," which led to widespread criticism both from parents and from at least 21 state school board associations who said they were not consulted about the letter before the national organization claimed to speak for them.

In response, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Oct. 4 that the Department of Justice is "committed to using its authority and resources" to address alleged threats and violence, drawing fire from critics who said the Biden administration was unfairly targeting concerned parents.

On Oct. 15, the Pennsylvania School Board Association became the first state school board association to leave the national group over the letter.

"The most recent national controversy surrounding a letter to President Biden suggesting that some parents should be considered domestic terrorists was the final straw," the PSBA said.

"Attempting to solve the problems with a call for federal intervention is not the place to begin, nor a model for promoting greater civility and respect for the democratic process," it added.

The Ohio School Board Association raised similar concerns in its letter.

"OSBA believes strongly in the value of parental and community discussion at school board meetings, and we reject the labeling of parents as domestic terrorists. There is tremendous value in allowing and encouraging the public to have meaningful input into the decision-making process," the letter stated.

"However, that participation should not come at the expense of interfering with the board's ability to conduct its businesses or subjecting individual board members to threats of violence, abuse, or harassment. That said, dealing with such interference should be dealt with at the local level, not by federal officials.

"The NSBA letter demonstrated just how out of touch the national association is with the concerns of local school boards and the principle of local control. OSBA can no longer allow NSBA to speak for our association or our membership and no longer see the value of continued membership."

Facing public controversy, the NSBA apologized for the letter and said it would conduct an internal review of the processes and procedures that led to it being sent to the White House without input from state school board associations.

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