[Podcast] Doc clarifies the issues around threats toward school officials, discusses the National School Board Association’s (NSBA) under-informed hyperbolic letter to president Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland’s knee jerk memo directing the FBI to figure out strategies to address school threats within the next 30 days, reactions from state-level school board associations, and how your local school district board of education might implement changes including recording audiences attending board of education (BOE) meetings. Doc matches solutions to these issues and also refreshes our minds to how similar matters have been effectively addressed in the past, including FDR’s 1930s letter writing campaign.
DIRECT LINK to MP3 of this Episode: https://tinyurl.com/SDP155-AUDIO
NSBA LETTER TO BIDEN REGARD THREATS TO SCHOOLS. On September 29, 2021, the NSBA, an advocacy group, sent a letter (link here) to President Biden with the heading: Federal Assistance to Stop Threats and Acts of Violence Against Public Schoolchildren, Public School Board Members, and Other Public School District Officials and Educators. In the letter, NSBA rolled off this 97-word sentence in which it put some parents in the arena with domestic terrorists: “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. As such, NSBA requests a joint expedited review by the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, and Homeland Security, along with the appropriate training, coordination, investigations, and enforcement mechanisms from the FBI, including any technical assistance necessary from, and state and local coordination with, its National Security Branch and Counterterrorism Division, as well as any other federal agency with relevant jurisdictional authority and oversight.”
AG GARLAND MEMO TO FBI. On October 4, 2021, US Attorney General Merrick Garland sent a memorandum (link here) to the Director of Federal Bureau of Investigation directing the FBI to convene meetings with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders in each federal judicial district within 30 days in order to facilitate strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff, and will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response.
STATE SCHOOL BOARD CHAPTERS NOT ON BOARD. The organization Parents Defending Education is curating a running tally (link here) of state school boards that have withdrawn from NSBA over the Biden letter (18 state school board associations have bailed from NSBA) as well as state school board associations answers to the following three questions: (1) As the [state association] has not yet commented on the National School Board Association’s September 29 letter to President Biden that requested federal intervention in local school board issues – which likened civic participation to “domestic terrorism and hate crimes” and cited the Patriot Act – Parents Defending Education (PDE) would like to know whether your organization was involved in the creation of this letter and whether you agree with its substance and tone. If not, have you contacted the NSBA to let them know? (2) Can you please tell us how, going forward, your organization defines “intimidation,” harassment,” and “threat”? (3) Finally, do you plan to report individuals in your state to the U.S. Department of Justice – or do you believe that concerns can be adequately managed by local and state law enforcement?
STATE RESPONSES BURN NSBA. It’s apparent that state’s are displeased with NSBA and the Garland Memo. Here’s the Delaware School Board Association response to PDE’s questions: “The DSBA has seen school board meeting protests, some of which have become quite impassioned, however we have received NO reports of violence or threats of violence toward school staff or school board members. The DSBA does NOT condone violence or threats of violence toward students, staff or board members. After consultation with the Governor’s office, the Public Health Department and the Delaware Department of Education the DSBA developed and issued guidance to school board presidents regarding how to best handle school board meeting protests, which included the ultimate use of LOCAL law enforcement if absolutely necessary. This guidance was issued prior to the NSBA September 29 2021 letter. The NSBA letter to President Biden was unnecessary and quite frankly not helpful.”
ARE THERE OTHER OPTIONS? Doc believes threats of violence toward school officials is happening, but over-stated by NSBA and Garland. Also, the National Threat Assessment Center has been effective in mitigating school threats for 20 years. Reviewing school board meeting video footage is at the bottom of the FBI’s prioritization list.
FDR ASKED FOR LETTERS. When FDR was president, the country was hammered by the Great Depression and fears of war. In his fireside chats, he asked listeners to write letters to him describing their plights. More than 8,000 letters a day arrived at the White House – many accusatory and fiery. Doc described why this approach worked, and how it might be one of the strategies considered to make people feel that they are being heard.
This is episode 155 of The Safety Doc Podcast recorded on 10-18-2021 and published on 10-20-2021.
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