NSBA Changes Gears With Apology to Members After Evidence of Collusion With White House on ‘Domestic Terrorism’ Letter Goes Public

By Neil Campbell | October 23, 2021
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
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National School Boards Association Domestic Terrorism Joe Biden Letter Apology
Loudoun County Public Schools Board Member Brenda Sheridan wears a mask and looks at her laptop during a public school board meeting in Ashburn, Virginia on October 12, 2021. The National School Boards Association was forced to conduct damage control over a Sept. 29 letter to Joe Biden characterizing parental protests as “domestic terrorism” after FOIA requests revealed the NSBA had not only colluded with the White House on the letter’s drafting, but that some Board Members were not in agreement with its contents. (Image: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) was forced to switch gears and apologize to members after fallout surrounding by a Sept. 29 letter sent to President Joe Biden characterizing parental protests as “domestic terrorism” became too hot to handle when FOIA records revealed the Association had colluded with the White House in advance of the letter’s authorship.

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On Oct. 21, Advocacy group Parents Defending Education (PDE) released email records, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, of correspondence between NSBA executives where the admission is made.

In the documents, a Sept. 29 email from Chip Slaven, Chief Advocacy Officer, the letter is sent to the NSBA Board, which Slaven states “lays out the current issues local school board members are facing and askes [sic] for federal cooperation with state and local law enforcement as well as public schools to address these serious issues.”

The CAO noted the cooperation between the Biden administration and the Association shortly afterwards, “Additionally, in talks over the last several weeks with White House staff, they requested additional information on some of the specific threats, so the letter also details many of the incidents that have been occurring.”

One such case of “specific threats” cited in the letter was that of Scott Smith, a father who was punched and arrested by law enforcement at a June 22 Loudoun County School Board meeting in Virgina after challenging the Board about a case where his 15-year-old daughter was allegedly sodomized in a high school bathroom by a boy wearing a skirt, claiming to identify as female on May 28.

The boy was not criminally charged until July 8 and was transferred to another school where he was affixed with an ankle monitor.

He allegedly offended again on Oct. 6 and was charged with a second suite of felonies.

Smith was heckled by a woman “wearing a rainbow heart shirt – a left wing community activist” as he spoke, according to The Daily Wire, which encouraged his agitation. 

After Smith’s arrest, law enforcement declared the meeting an unlawful assembly, cleared the room of all attendees, and the Loudoun County Board resumed their meeting behind closed doors. 

The email chain uncovered by PEG also revealed the letter was sent to Biden without consultation from the NSBA’s Board and that the Board was not unanimous in its position.

On Oct. 1, John Halkias, Director of NSBA Central Region, replied to Slaven’s email with CC to the Board of Directors, “I agree with many of my colleagues that the Board of Directors should have been consulted before a letter like this was sent out publicly, and no less to the President of the United States and the National Press.” 

“I also agree that the letter took a stance that went beyond what many of us would consider to be reasonable and used terms that were extreme, and asked for action by the Federal Government that many of us would not request.”

Halkias added, “Many of us have been put in a position now of explaining or defending this action of our association as we are asked by members of our community if we consider them domestic terrorists for showing up to our meetings and expressing their opinions.” 

“As a Member of this Board, I can defend the intent, but not the approach or much of the tone or content.” 

The Director conceded, “And it makes me chagrined to have to say that.” 

“I have learned in my own state of Ohio that is filled with diverse views that it does me no good to ignore the views of my neighbors and not try to find common ground rather than sow division.”

Following widespread parental backlash, many state-level school board associations withdrew from the NSBA, such as the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, who called the domestic terrorism characterization “the final straw” in a formal statement announcing their departure.

On Oct. 22, Washington Free Beacon correspondent Noah Polak published a copy of a Memorandum to members issued on NSBA letterhead where the Association was forced to dial back its rhetoric by stating “we regret and apologize for the letter.”

“We should have had a better process in place to allow for consultation on a communication of this significance,” said the Board, adding it would initiate an internal “formal review” of the Association’s processes and procedures.

However, the damage from the NSBA’s letter is already done. On Oct. 4, Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the FBI and United States Attorneys in all 14,000 federal school districts to begin “meetings” with “leaders in each federal judicial district.”

“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,” said Garland in his directive.

Garland also said the Department of Justice would “create specialized training and guidance for local school boards and school administrators.” 

“This training will help school board members and other potential victims understand the type of behavior that constitutes threats, how to report threatening conduct to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, and how to capture and preserve evidence of threatening conduct to aid in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes,” elaborated the AG.