‘The Final Straw’: Pennsylvania School Boards Association Withdraws From NSBA Over ‘Domestic Terrorism’ Letter

By Neil Campbell | October 18, 2021
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
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The PSBA Withdraws from the NSBA Over Joe Biden Domestic Terrorism Letter
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland arrives at a news conference at the Department of Justice September 9, 2021 in Washington, D.C. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association has withdrawn from the National School Boards Association in Protest after the NSBA’s Sept. 29 letter to Joe Biden asking protesting parents be classified as “domestic terrorism” and to have the PATRIOT Act deployed. AG Garland directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys in response. (Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The school boards association for the state of Pennsylvania has officially withdrawn from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) in protest over the organization’s letter to President Joe Biden asking for the use of the PATRIOT Act and to classify parents who protest Critical Race Theory and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) mandates as “domestic terrorism.”

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) made the announcement it had voted unanimously to separate from the NSBA in an internal memo that was made public on Twitter on Oct. 14

“The most recent national controversy surrounding a letter to President Biden suggesting that some parents should be considered domestic terrorists was the final straw,” read the memo, confirmed by PBS/NPR affiliate WHYY.

“This misguided approach has made our work and that of many school boards more difficult. It has fomented more disputes and cast partisanship on our work on behalf of school directors, when we seek to find common ground and support all school directors in their work, no matter their politics.”

The memo says the Association represents 4,500 school board members and 500 school boards across the state.

In the NSBA’s Sept. 29 letter to the President, the group thanked Biden for supplying funds through multi-trillion dollar spending packages enacted by Democrats during the first 8 months of the new Presidency while characterising protests at board meetings in different locales as “attacks against school board members and educators for approving policies for masks” and “physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula.”

The Association asked the President to deploy the FBI, DOJ, DHS, Secret Service, and NTAC to combat “acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials,” which the NSBA said should be characterized as “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”

One example cited in the letter was of an instance on June 22 where Scott Smith, father of a 15-year-old girl who was allegedly sodomized and assaulted in a high school bathroom by a boy wearing a skirt and self-identifying as a female, was punched and arrested by police at a Loudoun County board meeting while challenging executives about his daughter’s assault.

The assault occurred on May 28, yet the boy was not charged until July 8. Afterwards, he was transferred to another school and affixed with an ankle monitor. He assaulted another girl at his new school on Oct. 6 and now faces multiple felony charges resulting from both incidents.

In response to the NSBA’s letter, Attorney General Merrick Garland deployed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys offices across the country to “convene meetings with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders in each federal judicial district within 30 days of the issuance of this memorandum.”

“These meetings will facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff, and will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response,” read an Oct. 4 memorandum published by Garland. 

In Oct. 11 PSBA comments to the Delaware Valley Journal, the Association had revealed it had already taken issue with the national association’s letter, “The Pennsylvania School Boards Association was not consulted prior to the letter being sent by the National School Boards Association to President Biden…We were not asked for input nor discussion on its content.”

In the article, Simon Campbell, a former school board member, spoke strongly in opposition against the NSBA’s criminal characterization of parental protests and AG Garland’s deployment of federal law enforcement, “Criminal activity is criminal activity,  no matter where it occurs. Yet we don’t see public memorandums by the U.S. Attorney General targeting all citizens who go to convenience stores just because some convenience stores may have reported possible criminal activity.” 

“It is chilling that President Biden has authorized the targeting of American citizens based on those citizens’ engagement in matters of public policy. That anyone has to fear being investigated as a domestic terrorist for exercising his or her First Amendment rights at a school board meeting, is evidence that President Biden has launched an attack on our Republic and the very freedoms we cherish as Americans.” 

Campbell further said, “This is like a horrible movie scene from 1930’s Germany.”

Matthew Weintraub, District Attorney for Bucks County, told the paper, “There’s no need for it. There’s no place for, it will have a chilling effect on our First Amendment right to free speech.” 

Weintraub offered a caveat to his statement, “I don’t want you to conflate what I’m saying though…if somebody is going to overtly threaten another person, whether it’s on the internet or live at a school board in anger, they will be held accountable.” 

“But if they’re merely expressing their anger or their displeasure at their quality of education or the manner in which that education is provided, they have a right to be heard. And I will steadfastly uphold that right under the First Amendment.”

Advocacy group Parents Defending Education (PDE) said it had contacted 47 state school boards requesting their position on the NSBA letter. The group said as of Oct. 18, 18 states, including:

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming

had “distanced themselves from the NSBA’s letter.” PDE noted that California declined to respond. 

PDE published text of letters received from each Association in response to their inquiries in the Press Release.