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N.C. School Boards Association severs ties with national organization

The North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA) has severed ties completely with the National School Boards Association (NSBA) following a series of events, including the national organization asking the federal government for help dealing with “threats of violence and acts of intimidation” at local school board meetings across the country.

The national organization faced a backlash and was forced to apologize over what some critics called an attempt to use federal law enforcement to quash the free speech of parents concerned about what was happening in schools.

In a letter last week announcing its break from the national organization, the NCSBA said it’s been worried about “governance and financial issues” at the national organization for years.

“The September 29 letter from NSBA to President Biden, in both its inflammatory language and the request for federal agencies to intervene in our communities, was just one in a series of lapses in governance,” the NCSBA letter states.

The letter also says that NCSBA is concerned about safety at school board meetings but “believes that local law enforcement is in the best position to respond to those concerns.”

In September, NCSBA reached out to Gov. Roy Cooper and lawmakers asking for help with school board threats. Specifically, they were asking lawmakers to change the requirement that districts revisit their mask policies every month. Meetings where local school boards have to vote on the issue of masks are often a source of strife.

At the time, Lauren Horsch, communications adviser to Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said: “That some people are protesting decisions of their elected leaders is not legitimate grounds to change a law.”

Today, Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga, commented in an emailed statement on the NCSBA decision to sever ties with the national organization. She is a chair of both the Senate Education and Education Appropriations committees.

“It’s reassuring to see a state education association that’s not beholden to a political agenda. Every new headline about the national group’s behavior shows just how appalling the organization has become,” Ballard said. “I applaud our school boards association for taking a principled stand and calling out this behavior.”

Worries over what’s happening at local school boards are rampant. After the September letter from the NSBA, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland sent out a memo saying the federal Department of Justice “is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate.”

He then faced pushback after critics began saying that he was sending the FBI after parents protesting at school board meetings, a notion he said wasn’t true during his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee a few weeks ago.

“The only thing we are concerned about is violence and threats of violence against school officials, school teachers, school staff,” USA Today quoted him as saying during his testimony.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis, and Vice Chair Alan Duncan released a joint statement in September about safety concerns at district school board meetings.

“Our schools and district buildings should remain safe havens, and these acts of aggression cannot be tolerated. Our school board members and local leaders should not be threatened,” the statement read. “Especially in times of disagreement, we should act with civility and respect for our teachers, local boards, superintendents, and school staff who are doing their best throughout this unprecedented time to lead, guide and educate our students.”

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.