Ohio School Boards Association Cuts Ties with NSBA over Letter to Biden Targeting Parents as ‘Domestic Terrorists’

Patti Hidalgo Menders speaks out against board actions during a Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board meeting in Ashburn, Virginia on October 12, 2021. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

The Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) wrote Monday it is severing its ties with the National School Boards Association (NSBA) as a “direct result of the letter sent by [NSBA] to President Joe Biden late last month.”

In a letter to Chip Slaven, NSBA’s interim executive director and CEO, and Viola Garcia, the association’s president, OSBA’s president and CEO accused NSBA’s top officials of not being truthful.

OSBA President Robert M. Heard Sr. and CEO Richard C. Lewis wrote:

The letter purported to be sent on behalf of state associations and school board members across the nation. This assertion could not be further from the truth. OSBA was not notified of the letter, nor were we asked for our thoughts on the matter. If we had been consulted, we would have strongly disagreed with NSBA’s decision to request federal intervention as well as your claims of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.

“OSBA believes strongly in the value of parental and community discussion at school board meetings, and we reject the labeling of parents as domestic terrorists,” Heard and Lewis continued. “There is tremendous value in allowing and encouraging the public to have meaningful input into the decision-making process.”

The Ohio officials clarified that “participation should not come at the expense of interfering with the board’s ability to conduct its business or subjecting individual board members to threats of violence, abuse, or harassment.”

“That said, dealing with such interference should be dealt with at the local level, not by federal officials,” they wrote.

“The NSBA letter demonstrated just how out of touch the national association is with the concerns of local school boards and the principle of local control,” Heard and Lewis concluded. “OSBA can no longer allow NSBA to speak for our association or our membership and no longer see the value of continued membership.”

School choice champion Corey A. DeAngelis tweeted Tuesday the school boards associations of 22 states have now distanced themselves from the NSBA following its request to Biden for federal law enforcement to intervene in local school board meetings and possibly label some parents voicing concerns as “domestic terrorists.”

Parents Defending Education has been updating the list of responses from all state school boards associations following letters sent inquiring of their reactions to the NSBA letter to Biden.

The NSBA’s own board of directors renounced the letter to Biden sent by Garcia and Slaven, writing on Friday they “regret and apologize” for its content.

While the NSBA board of directors maintained they are concerned about the safety of school board members, school officials, and students, they asserted nevertheless “there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter.”

“[W]e deeply value not only the work of local school boards that make important contributions within our communities, but also the voices of parents, who should and must continue to be heard when it comes to decisions about their children’s education, health, and safety,” the NSBA board members continued.

Emails obtained last week through a public records request by Parents Defending Education indicated Garcia and Slaven worked with the White House prior to sending their September 29 letter to Biden requesting federal law enforcement use the PATRIOT Act to target parents as “domestic terrorists.”

The redacted emails revealed that, on October 2, Garcia wrote to the NSBA directors, “These are troubling times.”

“NSBA has been engaged with the White House and the Department of Education on these and other issues related to the pandemic for several weeks now,” she continued. “The pandemic and our heightened political environment have created a lot of tension in our society.”

She added:

What we have witnessed are coordinated efforts, playbooks, for creating chaos at school board meetings and in local communities. Letters across states are very similar and 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.

The Biden Education Department announced October 13 it had appointed Garcia to the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees which subjects are assessed by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card.

Attorney General Merrick Garland testified Thursday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing he took the word of the NSBA that parents voicing their concerns at local school board meetings should be investigated as possible “domestic terrorists.”

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