Recently surfaced documents provide greater insight into the communications between the National School Boards Administration (NSBA) and the White House prior to the release of the NSBA letter that likened parents to domestic terrorists for their participation in school board meetings.
The NSBA letter subsequently resulted in Attorney General Merrick Garland’s efforts to direct the FBI and the DOJ towards policing alleged threats made against various school board members. However, this letter has raised the suspicions of various GOP legislators, who believe that the letter may have been the result of collusion between the NSBA and the White House.
According to an October 12 memo from NSBA President Victoria Garcia to the organization’s state association officers, the NSBA did meet with White House officials in the middle of September. The memo was obtained by Parents Defending Education and provided to the Washington Examiner.
The October memo also provided excerpts from an email from NSBA’s Interim Director and CEO Chip Slaven, which included a reference to “a letter requesting federal assistance.”
Slaven also noted that the NSBA had already “drafted its own individual letter that has been in the planning for several days,” adding that it would “also go out next week.”
In the past month, Garland confirmed that the White House and the DOJ had been in communication in late September over the NSBA letter, just before his own early October memo. The NSBA letter urged the DOJ to use the PATRIOT Act against parents protesting at school board meetings.
In his own memo, Garland claims that a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” had befallen school board members, as well as school employees. Consequently, the DOJ would actively “discourage these threats [by identifying] them when they occur [and prosecuting] them when appropriate.”
After the release of Garland’s memo in October, the NSBA president took personal credit, proclaiming, “in response to the letter sent by NSBA, on October 4, 2021 [Garland] announced in a memorandum widely shared throughout the U.S. Department of Justice [its intentions] to coordinate efforts on this problem.”
Garland has since admitted that the NSBA letter played a strong influence in his own memo, though he also insisted that he first learned about threats against school board members in the news.
Slaven and Garcia have signed the highly controversial NSBA letter addressed to Biden. In early October, Garcia was selected by the Biden Education Department to serve on the National Assessment Governing Board.
Interestingly, some internal emails reveal that some NSBA board members were opposed to sending the letter to Biden. The NSBA itself also apologized for the letter one day after Garland’s testimony in front of the House in late October.
In addition, at least 26 different state groups have openly distanced themselves from the NSBA’s inflammatory letter, with 11 states withdrawing their membership, participation, or dues entirely.
“On behalf of the NSBA, we regret and apologize for the letter,” the NSBA proclaimed before continuing on to emphasize the importance of keeping school board members and other public school officials safe.
“There remains important work to be done on this issue,” the NSBA continued, before admitting that “there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter.”
However, Garland opted to double down on his memo during his testimony before the Senate in the past month. He argued that the apology from the NSBA ultimately does not alter the continued “concern about violence and threats of violence.”
In the wake of the NSBA letter and its outcome, House Judiciary Republicans have sent letters requesting information across DOJ in an effort to convince Garland to rescind his memo.
Garland’s memo did not make a reference to deploying the National Security Division, which has generally focused on terrorism and other related threats. However, the DOJ press release did reference the National Security Division in reference to supposed parental violence, identifying the division as part of its recently launched task force.