Probe of NSBA ‘Domestic Terrorism’ Letter Ends in Apology, Pledge to ‘Ensure This Does Not Happen Again’

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
May 21, 2022 Updated: May 22, 2022

Top officials at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) have apologized for sending a letter that called on the Department of Justice to investigate parents under domestic terrorism laws, blaming a “concerning lack of internal process and accountability” on the part of the association and vowing policy changes “to ensure this does not happen again.”

The apology and pledge to do better going forward came in a May 20 statement issued at the conclusion of an independent investigation into the circumstances around the Sept. 29, 2021, letter to the DOJ.

The NSBA’s controversial Sept. 29 letter (pdf) described the actions of some parents at school board meetings protesting policies such as critical race theory or COVID-19 restrictions as equivalent to “domestic terrorism” and argued that “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat.”

“As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” the letter alleged.

Following the NSBA’s letter, Attorney General Merrick Garland sent a memorandum to the FBI to direct investigators to address what he described as a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”

In the memo, Garland called for the FBI and other federal law enforcement agents to monitor activities at school districts nationwide.

An outcry followed the NSBA’s Sept. 29 letter and Garland’s memo, including a lawsuit brought by 14 Republican attorneys general alleging that the memorandum was based on false accusations against parents and “attacked dissent by parents during local school board meetings” in a bid to intimidate them.

The NSBA later apologized for the letter and replaced then-interim chief Chip Slaven in November 2021 with current NSBA Executive Director and CEO John Heim.

Heim said the Sept. 29 letter to the DOJ was sent without full approval of the association’s board, while stressing the NSBA’s non-partisanship and commitment to parental engagement. He added that the NSBA opposes federal law enforcement intervention at school board meetings.

“The letter directly contradicts our core commitments to parent engagement, local control, and nonpartisanship,” Heim said in a statement. “The sentiments shared in the letter do not represent the views or position of the NSBA. The NSBA does not seek or advocate for federal law enforcement intervention at local school board meetings.”

Heim added that sending the letter “without full Board approval highlighted a concerning lack of internal process and accountability and harmed the mission of our organization.”

Calling the events described in the review “unfortunate,” Heim said the NSBA would look to key takeaways from the report (pdf) and strive to do better going forward.

In a statement, NSBA Board President Frank Henderson expressed regret that the association’s leaders “did not review the letter more closely at the time,” insisting the letter doesn’t represent the views of the board or the NSBA, while pledging to implement a number of processes “to ensure this does not happen again.”

Steps meant to ensure better performance going forward, as outlined in the NSBA statement, include amending the NSBA’s constitution to enshrine non-partisanship, adopting a resolution opposing federal intrusion and expansion of executive authority, and pledging new processes and protocols.

The probe also found evidence of collaboration on the letter between members of the Biden administration and NSBA staff, under Slaven’s leadership.

Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, an advocacy group, said the investigation revealed a breach of trust by the Biden administration.

“As a result of the NSBA’s internal investigation, the American people now know that Biden Administration officials did indeed work with NSBA on the since-retracted letter requesting federal intervention in school board issues,” she told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement, calling it “a betrayal of trust by the highest levels of government.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) called the findings of the review an “outrage,” in a May 20 statement.

White House officials didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'