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Thursday, October 21, 2021

School board group asks US for help with police threats

by Carolyn Thompson

A group representing school board members across the country asked President Joe Biden on Thursday for federal aid to investigate threats made over policies including the mask mandate and liken vitriol to domestic terrorism. .

The National School Boards Association said in a letter to Biden that parents and members of the community are disrupting meetings and bullying board members in person, online and through the mail, in a trend that is consistent with federal attracts the attention of law enforcement agencies.

“Whatever you feel about the mask, it shouldn’t reach this level of rhetoric,” NSBA interim executive director Chip Slaven told the Associated Press over the phone.

School boards across the country have been disrupted by unruly attendees interfering with business and silencing other viewpoints.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the responsibility for protecting school boards rests largely on local law enforcement, but “we’re exploring whether more can be done with the administration as a whole.”

“Obviously these threats to the members of the school board are dire. They are doing their job,” she said during a press briefing.

The association asked the federal government to engage in investigations into cases where threats or violence could be handled as a violation of federal laws protecting civil rights. It also asked the Justice Department, FBI, Homeland Security and Secret Service to monitor threat levels and help assess risks to students, teachers, board members and school buildings.

“As these acts of malice, violence and threats against public school officials increase, the classification of these heinous acts may equate to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” the association wrote.

The association represents more than 90,000 school board members in 14,000 public school districts.

The letter documents more than 20 instances of threats, harassment, disruption and acts of intimidation in California, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio and other states. It cites the September arrest of an Illinois man for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct for allegedly killing a school officer at a meeting. In Michigan, a meeting was interrupted when a man gave a Nazi salute to protest masking.

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“We are following you,” said the group in a letter sent to a member of the Ohio School Board. “You are forcing them to wear masks – for no other reason than to be out of control in this world. And you have to pay dearly for that.”

It called the member “a filthy traitor”.

Last week, a crowd of 200 protesters, who banged on doors and shouted at police, called off a school board meeting in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where members plan to consider a temporary COVID-19 mask mandate. Made.

At a US Senate committee hearing on Thursday, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona condemned hostility against school board members and praised their “unwavering support” for safely reopening schools. He said the lack of decorum in some meetings is disappointing and in some places it has been “very dangerous”.

He served as a former member of the school board, Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind. The remarks were made in response to questions from Mr.

The dangers have gone beyond board meetings.

The father of an Arizona elementary school student was arrested after he and two others brought zip ties to campus, threatening a “civilian arrest” on a school principal over a COVID-19 quarantine.

School board members are largely unpaid volunteers, traditionally former teachers and parents who go on to shape school policy, select a superintendent and review budgets. The current environment has led an increasing number of people to decide against resigning or seeking re-election.

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Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Aamer Madani in Washington and Colin Binkley in Boston contributed to this report.

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