- A September letter to President Joe Biden from the National School Boards Association requesting that threats against school board members be investigated as possible “domestic terrorism” under the Patriot Act did not result from collusion with the Biden administration, according to an outside review commissioned by NSBA.
- According to the review, released Friday, there was no “direct or indirect evidence” found to suggest the letter was produced in collaboration with the White House, as had been alleged based on emails obtained by Fox News.
- While the 55-page review found that Chip Slaven, then NSBA interim executive director, was in contact with the White House in the weeks leading up to the letter and had shared an advance copy with senior White House policy adviser Mary Wall, there was no evidence of any response from Wall or that the White House requested the letter. The review concludes the letter was produced “in origin and substance” by Slaven.
When the NSBA issued its controversial letter to Biden in September, the document, co-signed by Slaven and then-president Viola Garcia, immediately stoked controversy with its description of heated parent protests over COVID-19 safety measures and curriculum topics on race and gender as being “equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
That response was only heightened when U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asked the FBI and federal prosecutors to talk to local leaders about the threats in the following days.
According to the investigation, Slaven toned down some of the letter’s language prior to its release, removing requests for National Guard or military police deployment to districts with heightened parent protests, and subbing in the word “assistance” in place of “intervention.”
In a statement provided Friday to Fox News, Slaven stood behind the letter, saying, “The organization owes no one an apology for standing up against violence and threats. I am saddened to see that the current leadership of NSBA appears to be afraid to stand up for local school board members and the students who attend public schools.”
The independent internal investigation released Friday was part of NSBA’s efforts, which also included a formal apology in October, to smooth things over with 19 mostly Republican-led states that left the association along with a half-dozen members of its 19-person board in reaction to the letter. In the months since, several state boards have discussed forming a separate school boards association.
During a session at AASA, the School Superintendents Association’s National Conference on Education in February, current NSBA Executive Director John Heim told AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech that he hoped the internal investigation would add transparency to the issue and win back some of the departing states.
“The letter we wrote went too far. What we said when we invoked the Patriot Act, when we talked about domestic terrorism — that was a mistake,” Heim said in February. “We should not have written it the way we did.”
The U.S. Department of Education denied the agency or U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona were involved in the letter in a January statement to The Washington Times, which said, “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 associations.”