On Thursday, a group representing members of school boards across the country called on President Joe Biden for federal help to investigate and end threats against politicians, including mask warrants, likening vitriol to a form of terrorism domesticated.
Parents and community members have disrupted meetings and threatened board members in person, online and by mail in a trend that deserves the attention of federal law enforcement agencies, the National said. School Boards Association in a letter to Biden.
“Whatever you think of the masks, it shouldn’t get to that level of rhetoric,” NSBA interim executive director Chip Slaven told The Associated Press by phone.
School boards across the country have been disrupted by unruly participants to interfere with business and silence other points of view.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said on Thursday coming out of a US Senate hearing that he wanted to know more about the request for federal investigators to deal with the threats, noting that his department is working with the group. school boards and must “listen carefully” to its concerns.
In the meantime, “at the local level, any threat must be thoroughly investigated,” Cardona added.
Threats to school board members are usually dealt with by local law enforcement. But the association called on the federal government to get involved in investigating cases where threats or violence could be treated as violations of federal laws protecting civil rights. He also called on the Department of Justice, the FBI, Homeland Security and the Secret Service to help monitor threat levels and assess risks to students, educators, board members and school buildings.
“As these malicious acts, violence and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could amount to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” wrote the association.
The association represents more than 90,000 school board members in 14,000 public school districts.
The letter documents more than 20 cases of threats, harassment, disruption and intimidation in California, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio and other states. He cites the September arrest of an Illinois man for aggravated assault and battery and disorderly conduct for allegedly hitting a school official during a meeting. In Michigan, a meeting was disrupted when a man gave a Nazi salute to protest the masking.
“We’re following you,” a letter mailed to an Ohio school board member said, according to the group. “You make them wear a mask – for no reason in this world other than control. And for that, you will pay dearly.
He called the member a “dirty traitor”.
Last week, a crowd of up to 200 protesters who knocked on doors and yelled at police closed a school board meeting in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where members were planning to consider a temporary COVID mask warrant. -19.
At the Senate committee hearing Thursday, Cardona denounced the hostility against school board members and praised their “unwavering support” to reopen schools safely. He said the lack of civility in some meetings is disappointing and in some places it has been “very dangerous”.
He made the comments in response to questions from Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., A former school board member who said contentious meetings were part of civic engagement.
The threats went beyond board meetings.
The father of an Arizona elementary school student was arrested after he and two other men brought neckties to campus, threatening to “citizen arrest” the school principal for a crime. COVID-19 quarantine.
School board members are largely unpaid volunteers, traditionally former educators and parents who come forward to shape school policy, choose a superintendent and revise the budget. The current climate has led to an increasing number of resigners deciding not to be re-elected.
Associated Press editors Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington and Collin Binkley in Boston contributed to this report.