A group of Republican state lawmakers called for the Minnesota School Boards Association to withdraw its membership from the national association this week in light of a letter sent to the Biden administration asking for help in thwarting threats and violence.
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) faced scrutiny for a letter it wrote to President Joe Biden in September requesting help from federal law enforcement agencies to investigate and thwart "threats and acts of violence" by community members against school board members across the country. The association likened such acts "to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes."
Critics denounced the national association for making such an analogy and accused it of trying to chill parents' speech. The association apologized for the letter in October, but not before U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. attorneys' offices to work with local law enforcement to address the problem.
"That the national school board organization would be involved in this attack on parents is outrageous," Senate Education Committee Chair Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said in a statement Friday. "Unless and until there is a complete leadership overhaul at the national level, the Minnesota School Board Association must preserve the integrity of its mission by withdrawing its membership from the NSBA."
Kirk Schneidawind, executive director of the Minnesota School Boards Association, said there have been a number of contentious and disruptive school board meetings in Minnesota of late.
The state association has encouraged boards to work with local law enforcement as needed, he said.
But the Minnesota School Boards Association disagreed with the letter sent to the White House and "played an important role in seeking a retraction," Schneidawind said.
"We made it very clear to the leadership that the message in the letter … did not reflect the experience in Minnesota," he said.
Schneidawind added that the Minnesota association's board of directors will meet in the coming weeks to discuss potential actions related to its involvement with the National School Boards Association.
And he reiterated that the state association "has always been supportive" of community members' right to speak out, noting that 331 public school districts in Minnesota offer forum opportunities.
School board meetings have become more heated during the past year due to pandemic measures such as mask mandates and issues such as social and racial justice.
Conservative media, politicians and activists have honed in on critical race theory in particular, accusing schools of teaching the college-level academic concept to children.
Critical race theory, which contends that racism is systemic and creates fewer opportunities for Black people in America, is not part of the state curriculum standards in Minnesota's K-12 schools.
Critics have used critical race theory as a blanket term to describe equity efforts across all institutions, especially in classrooms.
Ryan Faircloth • 612-673-4234