The White House was “actively engaged” with the National School Board Association before it sent a letter to the Biden administration asking that the feds investigate outspoken parents and likening them to domestic terrorists, an internal memo reveals.
The Oct. 12 NSBA memo raises serious questions about whether the White House ordered Attorney General Merrick Garland to have the FBI investigate confrontations and other incidents at local school board meetings across the US.
The memo, made public Thursday by the group Parents Defending Education, detailed at least one specific meeting with White House staff on Sept. 14, just over two weeks before the NSBA sent their letter to President Biden.
“In the September 14, 2021 meeting of the OSAED [Organization of State Association Executive Directors] liaison group, they were informed there had been a meeting with White House staff that morning and that NSBA was preparing to send a letter to the President,” the memo reads.
“Subsequently, on September 17, 2021, the interim Executive Director emailed notice to the state association executive directors that indicated a letter requesting federal assistance would be sent.”
Garland announced on Oct. 4 that the FBI would take the lead on probing what he called “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”
Written by NSBA president Viola Garcia the memo also details that the organization was “actively engaged with the White House, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Education, Surgeon General, and other federal agencies on pandemic related issues.”
The White House did not immediately respond to The Post’s inquiry about what officials met with the NSBA or for comment on the memo.
The memo follows a set of emails released last month that revealed top officials with the NSBA spoke with the White House before Garland issued a response of action to their letter on Oct. 4.
In his own memorandum, Garland announced the FBI would take the lead in investigating what he called “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”
His order has since received massive criticism from parents and Republican lawmakers who claim it targets parents voicing concerns about the implementation of mask mandates and critical race theory in schools, given the language used in the NSBA’s letter.
The organization’s letter, sent on Sept. 29 by CEO Chip Slaven without consultation from other officials within NSBA, claimed “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat.”
The letter suggested that verbal confrontations and other incidents at local school board meetings across the US constituted “acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials” that could be classified as a “form of domestic terrorism.”
Upon sending the letter, Slaven also sent it to the NSBA’s board of directors, noting “talks” with the White House.
In one of the released emails, Slaven noted that “in talks over the last several weeks with White House staff, they requested additional information on some of the specific threats, so the letter also details many of the incidents that have been occurring.”
The board of directors has since apologized for the language used in Slaven’s missive.
“To be clear, the safety of school board members, other public school officials, and students is our top priority, and there remains important work to be done on this issue,” the board wrote. “However, there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter.”
Given the repudiation of the NSBA’s September letter, some lawmakers have pressed the Department of Justice to recall their own memo and the investigation.
“Because the NSBA letter was the basis for your memorandum and given that your memorandum has been and will continue to be read as threatening parents and chilling their protected First Amendment rights, the only responsible course of action is for you to fully and unequivocally withdraw your memorandum immediately,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.) wrote to Garland last month.
The attorney general was urged to recall it again during an Oct. 27 hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee just days later.
“So last week, the organization disavowed it, sent you and the White House, based your memo on this delegitimize letter. I assume you’re going to revoke your extremely divisive memo that you said was instigated because of that letter. That’s a question,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said to Garland.
“Senator, the memo — which I refer to as one page — that responds to concerns about violence, threats of violence, other criminal conduct,” Garland responded. “That’s all it’s about and all it asks is for federal law enforcement to consult with, meet with local law enforcement to assess the circumstances, strategize about what may or may not be necessary to provide federal assistance if it is necessary.”
Grassley pressed further, asking, “Presumably, you wrote the memo because of the letter. The letter is disavowed now, so you’re going to keep your memo going anyway, right? Is that what you’re telling me?”
Garland did not directly answer Grassley’s question but acknowledged the letter from the NSBA board.
“The language in the letter that they disavow is language was never included in my memo and never would have been. I did not adopt every concern that they had in their letter. I thought that only the concern about violence and threats of violence that hasn’t changed,” Garland said.