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Pennsylvania School Boards Association quits national group over letter calling parents 'domestic terrorists'

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The Pennsylvania School Boards Association has voted to quit the National School Boards Association, writing that a recent NSBA letter to the Biden administration that likened protesting parents to "domestic terrorists" was the impetus for its decision.

"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 Pennsylvania association wrote in an internal memo.

In late September, the NSBA wrote to President Joe Biden stating 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.

The letter cited more than 20 examples of loud protests against school boards in recent months, as irate parents have confronted school officials over school mask mandates, prolonged school closures during the pandemic, pornographic material being taught in K-12 classrooms, "racist" lessons based on critical race theory, and more.

"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," the NSBA told Biden.

In response, 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.

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association is among those critics. The state association wrote that the NSBA's "misguided approach has made our work and that of many school boards more difficult. It has fomented more disputes and cast partisanship in our work on behalf of school directors."

"PSBA abhors the fact that some boards have been met with threats and violence. We are absolutely opposed to such actions. A school board meeting needs to be the model of democracy in action — locally elected officials hearing from the public as local solutions are debated and formulated. ... However, 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," the association wrote.

The PSBA said that among the other reasons to dissolve its ties to the national group are that the NSBA "is not focused on bipartisanship, civility and seeking solutions to the internal problems that have plagued the national organization for so long."

"The PSBA Governing Board has directed PSBA staff to develop additional services and resources to meet the ongoing, evolving needs of our membership. We intend to continue to work closely with other state school boards associations and remain hopeful that following this period of substantial tumult for the NSBA, we will find a new national organization ready and able to serve all its member states effectively," the memo concluded.

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association is a nonprofit association of public school boards in the state, representing more than 4,500 school board members. Founded in 1985, it was the first school boards association established in the United States.

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