JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri – The Missouri Association of School Boards withdrew from its parent organization last week following a letter it sent calling for federal intervention to combat acts of “domestic terrorism At hostile school board meetings nationwide.
Members of the Missouri School Boards Association were notified of the decision in a letter sent Monday afternoon. Group executive director Melissa Randol wrote that the National School Boards Association “has demonstrated that it does not currently align with the MSBA’s guiding principles for local governance.”
The MSBA executive committee recommended last week that the organization’s board of directors withdraw from the National School Boards Association. The decision was made at a special meeting on Friday morning, said Brent Ghan, deputy executive director of MSBA.
While no school board member or educator should receive threats of violence for decisions they make for students, attempting to address bullying with federal intervention “goes against our long tradition of local control” and shouldn’t be the first step in most cases, Randol writes in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Independent.
Further, the “inflammatory terms” in the letter from the national organization “are not a model to promote greater civility and respect for the democratic process,” Randol wrote.
In a September 29 letter to President Joe Biden, the president of the NSBA and its executive director and interim CEO compared the threats and violence against school officials “to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” .
Nationwide school board meetings have become increasingly hostile over debates on topics such as COVID-19 mitigation measures and critical race theory, and have resulted in the resignation of some members of the board of directors.
The organization called on Biden to order law enforcement agencies, such as the Justice Department and the FBI, to take action, including reviewing whether enforcement should be taken under laws such as the Patriot Act, which was passed following September 11. 2001, terrorist attacks.
Ghan said neither the MSBA nor any of the other public school board associations had been consulted prior to the letter’s publication.
âThe letter surprised us,â Ghan said.
MSBA is not the only section of the state to withdraw its members, with the Ohio and Pennsylvania school board associations also announcing their withdrawal from the national organization. The Florida chapter has announced that it will refuse to pay dues.
The National School Boards Association has since apologized to its members. In a letter on Friday, the national organization apologized for some of the language it used in its September letter and “for the tension and stress this situation has caused.”
Randol wrote in his letter to Missouri school boards that the apology is a step in the right direction, but that the NSBA still has “important work to do” to avoid similar problems in the future and to mend fractured relationships.
MSBA’s decision to sever ties with the National School Boards Association follows the setback the parent organization received nationwide after its September letter, including from Republicans in Missouri.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Schmitt joined a coalition of state attorneys general urging the Justice Department to withdraw a memo advising the FBI to coordinate strategies to deal with threats against educators. Schmitt, a candidate for the US Senate, also sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and urged the Biden administration to “put parents first over school bureaucrats.”
US Senator Josh Hawley called on Garland to step down and praised MSBA on its withdrawal from the national organization.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Mike Parson also applauded the MSBA’s decision and said it shows Missouri schools take First Amendment parental rights seriously.
âWe appreciate that MSBA stands up for our students, teachers and parents and recognizes that Missouri will play no role in criminalizing affected parents,â Parson said.
Independent from Missouri is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a public charity. It can be found at missouriindependant.com.