by James A. Bacon
It became national news when the National School Board Association (NASB) asked the Biden administration to investigate threats and violence against school board members around the country. The Justice Department announced it would collaborate with the FBI and local law enforcement to prosecute criminal behavior. The views of the national association did not reflect the views of at least 13 state organizations, including Virginia’s, reports National Review.
The Virginia School Boards Association made clear in a letter published last week that it provided no information to the national organization and was never informed that a letter would be sent. The NASB was not the first decision with which the Virginia association disagrees, the Virginia group wrote, and it “probably will not be the last.”
In support of its contention that parent protesters were a threat, the NASB had cited Virginia incidents in which “an individual was arrested, another man was ticketed for trespassing, and a third person was hurt during a school board meeting discussion.” The citations, shorn of context, created a highly misleading picture.
The VASB letter, which struck a moderate tone, is worth quoting at length. The quotes highlighted in bold are statements with which most people would agree.
VSBA is aware that local school board members are under an increased level of scrutiny and pressure involving several issues and that holding this elected/appointed position has required school board members and their school administrators to make difficult decisions on behalf of students. Given the nature of the issues, it is not possible to make decisions which all community members will agree, and that disagreement has been expressed in public meetings and on social media. These decisions are not always popular and are almost guaranteed to be unpopular to some portion of the community. …
VSBA and its 132 local school division members recognize the vital role parents play in the education of their children and within the school community. Local boards in Virginia work very hard to listen to parents and other members of the community and to work as a collaborative team for the safety and achievement of all students. We must all work together to ensure a safe and nurturing learning environment for students.
Those citizens who serve on Virginia’s local school boards deserve our thanks. There is no justification for physical or verbal threats directed against them, their staff and certainly not the students. Nor is there any excuse for disrupting a public meeting. When such unfortunate events occur, the local officials, working with local law enforcement, must deal with the situation appropriately. While we look for support to our state and federal governments, we do not seek the involvement of federal law enforcement or other officials in local decisions.