Controversy has arisen from the national media and some conservative parents regarding a letter that the NSBA, the National School Board Association, sent to President Biden asking for “Federal Assistance to Stop Threats and Acts of Violence” against school board officials, school children, and other school officials and educators. The letter was issued over the signature of NSBA Exec. Director Chip Slaven, and Viola Garcia, president of the NSBA and an Aldine ISD trustee.
Criticism has been vocal and widespread throughout the country, with conservative politicians, media, and the public saying that the letter indicates the NSBA wants to curb constitutionally guaranteed free speech, and labels parents and those who speak out on their opinions at school board meetings as “domestic terrorists.”
The NSBA letter notes that critics are against COVID mask mandates, and extend that fear to the subject of Critical Race Theory, which she says is mistakenly thought to be taught in schools, but is not. The letter does ask for assistance from federal law enforcement agencies to secure a safe environment for teaching, and board meetings.
But in comments to this newspaper, Garcia points out that it did not ask for any suppression of free speech, and in fact states that it supports peaceful expression of opinions.
Garcia said that the letter was prompted by the number of contentious and extreme statements made at some school board meetings nationally. School board members are also concerned for their safety, due to threats made at meetings and in their personal life.
She said, however, that the assumption by critics that NSBA wants to suppress free speech or label parents as terrorists is a misreading of the letter, and not its intent.
Last week the NSBA issued a retraction of the letter, stating that its wording was ill-advised and not reflective of the membership’s position.