Parents Defending Education, an organization representing hundreds of thousands of parents nationwide, has responded to allegations by the National School Board Association that vocal parents are engaging in "domestic terrorism."
What is the background?
Last month, the NSBA wrote President Joe Biden requesting federal intervention over alleged threats, intimidation, and violence against school board members.
The NSBA claimed school board members are under "immediate threat" from parents angry over a myriad of issues, but specifically cited COVID-related mandates, such as face masks in schools, and "because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula."
The NSBA requested swift action from federal law enforcement agencies, and urged the government to classify the alleged threats and intimidation as "domestic terrorism" and "hate crimes."
How did PDE respond?
In response, PDE — which says it represents more than 427,000 parents — called out the NSBA for a "thinly veiled threat" to silence parents angry about COVID-related mandates and woke teaching.
"NSBA cites a tiny number of minor incidents in order to insinuate that parents who are criticizing and protesting the decisions of school boards are engaging in, or may be engaging in, 'domestic terrorism and hate crimes.' NSBA even invokes the PATRIOT Act," PDE said in a statement.
"The association of legitimate protest with terrorism and violence reveals both your contempt for parents and your unwillingness to understand and hear the sincere cries of parents on behalf of their children," the statement continued. "To equate parents with terrorists dishonors the thousands of victims of actual terrorism around the world. Have you no shame?"
"Your letter to President Biden is a thinly veiled threat, intended to intimidate into silence and submission the very constituents that your members ostensibly represent," PDE added.
The statement explained parents are also angry, in part, about a lack of transparency in school boards.
Citizens are angry that school boards and school officials around the country are restricting access to public meetings, limiting public comment, and in some cases conducting business via text messages in violation of state open meetings laws. They are angry that schools are charging them thousands of dollars in public records requests to view curriculum and training materials that impact their children and that should be open to the public by default.
They are angry that pandemic-related learning losses have compounded the already-low reading, writing, and math proficiency rates in America's schools. They are angry that rather than focusing on declining student achievement, large numbers of districts have chosen to fund, often with hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money, "social justice" and "diversity, equity, and inclusion" programs with finite resources.
"We will not be bullied. We will not have our speech chilled. We have a constitutional right to petition our elected officials, and we will continue to do so," the statement said.
How did the government respond?
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday he had dispatched the FBI in response to the NSBA's request for federal law enforcement assistance.
Garland said the Justice Department is "committed to using its authority and resources," and will, in the coming days, "announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel."