The Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona requested the National School Boards Association (NSBA) the now infamous letter that compared angry parents as terrorists, according to emails obtained by the Parents Defending Education organization and reviewed by Fox News. The email exchange is the latest episode on the NSBA “terrorist letter” saga, and it appears to paint a concentrated effort by the administration in the crafting of the now-retracted letter.
According to the email from Kristi Sett to Marine Maldonado, both members of the NSBA, who confirmed to Maldonado that Chip Slaven (who acted as NSBA interim leader at the time) “told the officers he was writing a letter to provide information to the White House, from a request by Secretary Cardona”.
Although the email appears to show that the Department of Education directly asked the NSBA to issue the letter, a spokesperson for the administration denied this to be the case, saying to Fox News that “While the Secretary did not solicit a letter from NSBA, to understand the views and concerns of stakeholders, the Department routinely engages with students, teachers, parents, district leaders, and education association.”
In a statement to Fox News digital, the president of the Parents Defending Education Nicole Neily said “should this allegation be true, it would reveal that this administration’s pretextual war on parents came from the highest levels.”
The “terrorist letter” that wrecked the NSBA
The letter in the center of the controversy was written by the NSBA in late September of 2021, it was addressed to President Biden and it asked him to deploy federal resources to stop what they claimed to be “threats and acts of violence” against public school teachers, board members, and students. The most incendiary part of the letter was in the second page, when the NSBA asked the administration to consider classifying these alleged threats as “a form of domestic terrorism” and asked the Federal government to punish those actions under, among other laws, the PATRIOT Act, which was signed soon after the 9/11 attacks as a central pillar of America’s counterterrorism efforts.
The head of the Department of Justice, Attorney-General Merrick Garland, then published a memo on October 4 announcing a coordinated effort between local and federal law enforcement officials aimed at countering the “rise in criminal conduct directed towards school personnel.”
The pushback against both the NSBA and the Department of Justice over the letter has been immense. Republican lawmakers grilled AG Merrick Garland during a fiery Senate hearing, where Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) heavily criticized garland over the memo saying to him “This testimony, your directive, your performance is shameful (…) Thank God you are not on the Supreme Court. You should resign in disgrace,” after Garland defended his Department’s decision to issue the memo.
The pushback has not only been directed towards the Department of Justice, as the National School Boards Association has suffered very serious pushbacks from both parents organizations and regional school boards associations across the country. The board of the NSBA was forced to issue a public apology for the letter. The press release said that while its intention was to defend the wellbeing and safety of students, teachers, and school board members, that was no justification for the language used in the letter sent to President Biden. The NSBA also informed that it opened a formal review over their procedures and processes
However, the apology has not been enough to stop the crisis on the NSBA, as at least half of the states with school board organizations have pushed back in one way or another against the NSBA, as 10 states have directly voted to condemn the letter and 17 have voted to withdraw or stop paying fees to the NSBA as part of the political fallout.
Almost four months after the NSBA sent their “terrorist letter” to President Biden, there are still many who are questioning if the administration coordinated with the NSBA in the writing of a letter that recommended the use of counterterrorism tools in the growingly contentious school board meetings across the country. The latest emails will only increase the political pressure over the issue.