Nebraska school board group cuts ties with national association | national news

The Board of Directors of the Nebraska School Boards Association voted unanimously on Saturday to officially cut ties with a national organization that sparked controversy last year by calling for a federal investigation into threats made against school board members.

The decision comes less than a month after the Nebraska association’s executive committee voted to recommend termination of membership in the National School Boards Association, a federation of state boards that advocates and lobbies on public education issues.

Saturday’s decision adds Nebraska to a growing list of state school board associations that have distanced themselves from or cut ties with the NSBA altogether. In a text message, Nebraska Association President Brad Wilkins confirmed that he will not be paying NSBA dues this year. The money should have been paid on June 30.

Last September, senior NSBA officials sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking for help from the federal government to protect educators and board members from threats and harassment. School board meetings across the country have become increasingly lively as debates over masking, sex education and critical race theory compelled hordes of parents to testify at the normally quiet meetings.

The letter called for “joint collaboration” between state and federal law enforcement agencies to identify and prevent threats against board members. The NSBA requested assistance from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service.

“As these acts of malice, violence and threats against public school officials have increased, classification of these heinous actions could amount to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” it read. in a particularly controversial section of the six-page letter.

The letter was signed by Viola Garcia, the group’s president at the time, and Chip Slaven, then executive director and interim CEO.

In October, US Attorney General Merrick Garland responded to the NSBA and, in a memorandum, ordered the FBI and US prosecutors to meet and investigate what he called “an increase concern of harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” targeting school staff.

Garland’s original letter and memorandum were heavily criticized by the public and by NSBA members who said they were not consulted on the contents of the letter. In response, at least 23 other public school board associations officially severed ties with the national organization. A handful of other state councils issued statements denouncing the message of the letter and the call for federal action.

Nebraska politicians also reacted negatively to the letter. US Senator Ben Sasse called Garland’s memo a “work of political hacking” in a reportand Governor Pete Ricketts said federal intervention would be a “outrageous absolute abuse of federal power” meant “intimidating parents into not attending school board meetings”.

The NSBA publicly apologized for the letter shortly after it was shared. Slaven no longer holds the interim leadership position and an independent investigation commissioned by the NSBA found that he was the lead author and did not seek comment from the National Board of Directors or members of organization before sending it.

The number of member associations of the NSBA has been cut in half over the past year, raising questions about its viability as a national organization. Axios announced last year that the 17 affiliates who severed ties by December 2021 accounted for more than $1.1 million in dues. The report also indicates that some states, such as Montana and Florida, are considering the creation of a new national group to compete with the NSBA.

Andrew B. Reiter