The NSBA gives various examples of the threats of violence in its letter and charts what started as protests against public safety mandates as they have devolved into using school board meetings to air right-wing grievances about the world. The attacks on what has been called critical race theory (CRT) are simply the same thing we have seen before from conservative white supremacists for hundreds of years. When it’s not CRT, it’s an attack on LGBTQ+ students. But whether or not you want to have a discussion on these matters, the results that right-wing circus rallies—promoting mob mentality over discourse—are yielding are not good.
In Ohio, an individual mailed a letter to a school board member labeling the return address on the envelope from a local neighborhood association and then enclosing threatening hate mail from another entity. This correspondence states that, “We are coming after you and all the members on the … BoE [Board of Education].” This hate mail continues by stating, “You are forcing them to wear mask—for no reason in this world other than control. And for that you will pay dearly.” Among other incendiaries, this same threat also calls the school board member a “filthy traitor,” implies loss of pension funds, and labels the school board as Marxist. Earlier this month, a student in Tennessee was mocked during a board meeting for advocating masks in schools after testifying that his grandmother, who was an educator, died because of COVID-19. These threats and acts of violence are affecting our nation’s democracy at the very foundational levels, causing school board members – many who are not paid – to resign immediately and/or discontinue their service after their respective terms. Further, this increasing violence is a clear and present danger to civic participation, in which other citizens who have been contemplating service as either an elected or appointed school board member have reconsidered their decision.
On top of this, state legislatures controlled by Republicans have very consciously turned these school board meetings into partisan political rallies to fundraise and campaign on. For example, in North Carolina, the GOP has made it law that while school boards may vote to require mask mandates, they have to do this every month. Besides being a waste of time and resources, the only reason to require a monthly vote is in order to be able to hold monthly GOP rallies at school board meetings.
Meanwhile, so-called elite schools—the kinds of private institutions that right-wing operatives like Sen. Ted Cruz and disgraced former guy Trump send their kids to—have mask mandates. Unsurprisingly, they also have none of this terrorizing partisan grifter-activism going on. Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina isn’t showing up with an apparent knife tucked into his wheelchair at more tony schools that have mask requirements for their students and staff. But then again, as the NSBA’s letter reminds everyone, regardless of your feelings about race and masks, the heightened threat of violence at school board meetings is counterproductive to what everyone claims they want: better education.
These threats or actual acts of violence against our school districts are impacting the delivery of educational services to students and families, as many districts receive federal funds and subsidies for services to millions of students with disabilities, health screenings and supplemental supports for disadvantaged students, child nutrition, broadband connectivity, educator development, school safety activities, career and technical education, and more. School board meetings have been disrupted in California, Florida, Georgia, and other states because of local directives for mask
coverings to protect students and educators from COVID–19.
The NSBA has been supportive of the Biden administration’s moves to protect the educational environment from the surging delta variant of the COVID-19 virus. But every step of the way, they have had to continuously release statements sounding the alarm that these astro-turfed conservative campaigns against schools and teachers and school board members are threatening the safety of not only the individuals being terrorized, it’s threatening the public welfare of everyone in these communities.