Emails obtained via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request allege Education Secretary Miguel Cardona solicited the letter from National School Boards Association (NSBA) officials to President Joe Biden that targeted parents voicing concerns about education issues as potential “domestic terrorists.”
The emails, obtained by Parents Defending Education (PDE), allegedly reveal the White House was already “actively engaged” with NSBA President Viola Garcia and interim CEO Chip Slaven prior to the group’s letter to Biden.
New FOIA document obtained by Parents Defending Education asserts NSBA letter was drafted at request of Education Secretary.
Read the full emails here: https://t.co/3YpmzNwRAh pic.twitter.com/DQ1KWmBXwg
— Parents Defending Education (@DefendingEd) January 11, 2022
🔥BREAKING. @DefendingEd just got this via FOIA: In Oct. 5 email, @NSBAPublicEd Sec-Treasurer Kristi Swett said NSBA chief Chip Slaven "told the officers he was writing a letter to provide information to the White House, from a request by Secretary Cardona." Yes, @SecCardona. pic.twitter.com/Gnc4YxkRiL
— Asra Q. Nomani 🐻 (@AsraNomani) January 11, 2022
“Should this allegation be true, it would reveal that this administration’s pretextual war on parents came from the highest levels,” PDE President Nicole Neily said, as reported by Fox News Digital Tuesday.
The newly obtained documents appear to show an email exchange between NSBA board members Marnie Maldonado and Secretary-Treasurer Kristi Swett, dated October 5-6, 2021, in which Swett asserted Slaven “told the officers he was writing a letter to provide information to the White House, from a request by Secretary Cordona.”
"Education Secretary Miguel Cardona solicited the much-criticized letter from the National School Boards Association that compared protesting parents to domestic terrorists, according to an email exchange…obtained by Parents Defending Education" https://t.co/otSZLQn43n
— Parents Defending Education (@DefendingEd) January 11, 2022
The emails are revealed as the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday it is establishing a new domestic terrorism unit to combat a perceived domestic terrorism threat, CNN reported.
“We face an elevated threat from domestic violent extremists – that is, individuals in the United States who seek to commit violent criminal acts in furtherance of domestic social or political goals,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Olsen said DOJ had formed a new unit with attorneys dedicated to domestic terrorism threats, investigations into which, he said, have more than doubled since March 2020.
Domestic violent extremists are often motivated by a mix of ideologies and personal grievances. We have seen a growing threat from those who are motivated by racial animus, as well as those who ascribe to extremist anti-government and anti-authority ideologies.
House Republicans demanded in November that Cardona turn over all communications with NSBA, the DOJ, and the White House regarding the letter NSBA officials sent to Biden asking him for federal law enforcement assistance to possibly target parents as domestic terrorists.
A letter from Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee to Attorney General Merrick Garland revealed the lawmakers had received documents from a whistleblower that stated the FBI was using counterterrorism tactics to investigate parents considered to be potential “domestic terrorists” at school board meetings.
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) November 16, 2021
In an egregious abuse of power, President Biden’s Department of Justice is using FBI criminal and counterterrorism resources to target parents.
Attorney General Garland must testify under oath about the discrepancies regarding his directives involving investigating parents.
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) November 17, 2021
In December, the 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee demanded Garland withdraw his October 4 memo that ordered the FBI to investigate parents who voiced concerns at school board meetings in their districts.
Garcia had informed state association executive directors in an internal memo that a meeting had taken place with the White House on September 14, two weeks before the NSBA officials sent their letter to Biden.
“NSBA has been actively engaged with the White House, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Education, Surgeon General, and other federal agencies,” she wrote.
On September 30, NSBA tweeted a now-deleted post that read:
We sent a letter to President Biden this morning asking for federal assistance to stop threats and acts of violence against public schoolchildren, public school board members, and other public school district officials and educators: https://nsba.org/404?item=%2fnews%2f2021%2ffederal-assistance-letter&user=extranet%5cAnonymous&site=website
NSBA’s website has since been scrubbed. Its letter to Biden read:
NSBA believes immediate assistance is required to protect our students, school board members, and educators who are susceptible to acts of violence affecting interstate commerce because of threats to their districts, families, and personal safety … Coupled with attacks against school board members and educators for approving policies for masks to protect the health and safety of students and school employees, many public school officials are also facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula.
“This propaganda continues despite the fact that critical race theory is not taught in public schools and remains a complex law school and graduate school subject well beyond the scope of a K-12 class,” NSBA asserted, one month after the United States Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution during its annual convention in which its members pledged to support the teaching of CRT in K-12 schools.
Education Sec. Won't Say Parents are "Primary" Stakeholders in Children's Education pic.twitter.com/SWLlXh6MGx
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) October 1, 2021
The letter, signed by Garcia and Slaven, also asked Biden to issue an executive order that would serve to protect school officials and school board members from parents by reviewing “appropriate enforceable actions against these crimes and acts of violence under the Gun-Free School Zones Act, the PATRIOT Act in regards to domestic terrorism, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights statute, the Conspiracy Against Rights statute.”
According to Education Week, Slaven responded to a question about whether his group thought local law enforcement intervention was insufficient to address situations that arose in the districts, by stating, “These incidents are beyond random acts. What we are now seeing is a pattern of threats and violence occurring across state lines and via online platforms, which is why we need the federal government’s assistance.”
On October 13, two weeks after the NSBA officials sent their letter to Biden, the Education Department announced it had appointed Garcia to the National Assessment Governing Board, a top position that provides oversight regarding which subjects students will be tested on in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card.
Garland’s office announced October 4 a memorandum would be widely shared throughout DOJ the attorney general was ordering all U.S. Attorney Offices and local FBI offices to reach out to local and state law enforcement officials to coordinate efforts on the “disturbing trend” of threats by parents as described by NSBA within 30 days of the memorandum.