School boards in Virginia and Louisiana have denounced plans for federal law enforcement agencies to step in to protect teachers against protesting parents, it emerged on Monday, amid an increasingly heated political environment.
It comes after Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo announcing a task force – including the FBI – to look into how best to use federal powers to prosecute crimes against school personnel.
President Biden has repeatedly condemned threats directed at school board members during angry debates on mask mandates.
But now two state school board associations have spoken out at a letter sent by their national association to Biden calling for help.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced plans to set up a task force with the FBI to take action against a rise in threats against educators and school board members over highly politicized issues, such as mask mandates and teaching race awareness
The memo has angered two state school board associations, which distanced themselves from their national association for requesting federal help
‘Those citizens who serve on Virginia’s local school boards deserve our thanks,’ said the Virginia School Boards Association, which said it had not been consulted on the National School Boards Association request for help.
‘There is no justification for physical or verbal threats directed against them, their staff and certainly not the students.
‘Nor is there any excuse for disrupting a public meeting. When such unfortunate events occur, the local officials, working with local law enforcement, must deal with the situation appropriately.
‘While we look for support to our state and federal governments, we do not seek the involvement of federal law enforcement or other officials in local decisions.’
Angry school board meeting have been one of the most visible flashpoints during a year of tension over everything from mask mandates to lessons in race awareness.
A school board meeting in Minnesota over masking degenerated into violence last month, after a speaker wearing a face covering was confronted by an unmasked man.
One video that went viral showed doctors and nurses being harassed in Tennessee after they left a school board meeting where they had spoken in favor of mandatory masking.
One enraged looking man roared: ‘We know who you are, you can live freely, but we will find you.’
Biden condemned their behavior.
Video shows disgruntled parents and anti-mask demonstrators harassing health care professionals and school board officials after the Williamson County Schools Board of Education voted to require masks for students, staff and visitors inside and on school premises
And last month, the NSBA wrote to Biden requesting federal help.
‘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,’ it said.
Biden’s attorney general last week issued a memo saying the FBI would convene meetings with local leaders to take action.
‘Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,’ wrote Garland.
‘Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety.’
But the move has been condemned by conservatives.
Republicans accused the Biden administration of heavy handed tactics during a Senate Judiciary hearing last week.
And the Louisiana School Board Association said it was now considering whether to remain a member of the NSBA.
‘Our concern is that NSBA’s request and description of events is not a universal occurrence at all school boards, it fails to align with the standards of good governance, and it discourages active participation in the governance process,’ it said.