Mississippi and Illinois have become the latest state school board groups to discontinue their membership in the National School Board Association (NSBA), citing disagreement over a letter calling for federal intervention in parental protests.
In a widely criticized Sept. 29 letter to President Joe Biden, the NSBA characterized disruptions at school board meetings as “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crime.” It also urged the federal government to invoke counterterrorism laws to handle “angry mobs” of parents seeking to hold school officials accountable for teaching the Marxism-rooted critical race theory and for imposing COVID-19 restrictions such as mask mandates on their children.
Just five days later, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo directing federal law enforcement to help address an alleged “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against teachers and school leaders.
Despite the NSBA’s apology for “some of the language” used in the letter, some 26 of its state chapters have distanced themselves from the national federation, with 15 of them terminating their membership or halting payment of dues.
In a message sent to school board presidents and superintendents, the Mississippi School Boards Association (MSBA) said its board of directors has voted to withdraw from the NSBA because it can “no longer see the value of continued membership.”
“The September 29 letter from NSBA to President Biden, with the inflammatory language and the request for federal agencies to intervene in our communities, was just one in a series of lapses in governance,” MSBA President Leroy Matthews and Executive Director Denotris Jackson wrote.
Jackson previously said his organization wasn’t informed about the letter before it was sent to Biden, Mississippi Today reported.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) on Nov. 18 ended its membership after a board of directors vote, citing NSBA’s failure to fulfill many of its responsibilities, including consulting state chapters before sending out the highly controversial letter.
“The Board recognizes the need for a healthy national organization that can provide training, federal advocacy, shared resources, and networking opportunities,” the IASB said in a statement announcing the decision. “IASB communicated to NSBA that ‘IASB no longer believes that NSBA can fill this important role.’”
The exit announcements came as the Justice Department’s swift response to the letter raised suspicions, prompting some Republican members of Congress to look into the role the Biden administration played in the crafting and release of the NSBA letter.
When Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked Garland during an Oct. 21 House Judiciary Committee hearing whether it was just a coincidence that the NSBA letter and the DOJ memo were released only five days apart, he admitted the letter was “brought to our attention” and was a “relevant factor” in his memo.
“No one in the White House spoke to me about the memo at all,” Garland told Jordan, who questioned whether anyone in the White House asked the attorney general to write the memo. “I am sure, at least I certainly would believe, that the White House communicated its concerns about the letter to the Justice Department, and that is perfectly appropriate.”
Garland further stated that he didn’t know whether anyone else in his department spoke with the White House prior to the memo’s release, but was sure that “the communication from the [NSBA] was discussed between the White House and the Justice Department, and that’s perfectly appropriate.”