JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri School Boards’ Association withdrew from its national organization over a controversial letter sent to the White House.
The six-page letter from the National School Boards’ Association (NSBA) compared parents who act out at school board meetings to “domestic terrorists.” This comes as two heated topics, critical race theory (CRT) and mask mandates, take center stage nationwide.
In Missouri, the state’s school board association (MSBA) said this letter does not follow local control.
“To have a letter that is being interpreted as defining parents in a negative light was horrible — was just shocking,” executive director for MSBA Melissa Randol said Wednesday. “I immediately contacted the NSBA expressing our great disappointment with this and hoping they misspoke.”
Before the letter was sent to the White House last month, NSBA represented 49 states. Missouri has now joined Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana in withdrawing its membership.
“In terms of services to our member districts, there will not be a loss of any direct services to them,” Randol said.
The letter asked for federal law enforcement to respond to the growing number of threats directed at school board members.
“I want to emphasize throughout Missouri, anyway, it’s been very rare for the outburst to be actual threats,” Randol said. “Most of them, it’s just passion.”
NSBA has since apologized, saying there was no justification for some of the letter’s language.
“We felt like we still needed to move forward with our decision to withdraw participation until we see some of the actions followed,” Randol said.
Earlier this month, Randol sent a letter to the organizations 400 school districts making sure they were aware of the recent NSBA letter sent to the Biden Administration.
“While we recognize that there are serious issues occurring around the country and in some communities in Missouri, we strongly disagree with the tone of the NSBA letter and especially with the call for federal involvement,” the letter read. “MSBA was not consulted nor given the opportunity to advise on the NSBA letter to the White House. We were disappointed with the NSBA letter and have clearly expressed our disagreement to them in no uncertain terms.”
On Monday, she sent a second letter informing the districts they’re leaving the national leaders after the board of directors met and voted to withdraw its membership.
“This decision was not made lightly,” the letter said. “The NSBA, through its recent actions, such as its letter to the White House, has demonstrated it does not currently align with MSBA’s guiding principles of local governance.”
Randol said this does not mean MSBA is not promoting safety.
“We encourage communication,” she said. “I’m certainly not condoning when any incident where that passion turns into inappropriate behavior. If we could just embrace the need to behave the way we want our kids to behave in school in these environments, that would help. But that’s not criminal.”
Randol said she is aware threats against school board members and educators have happened in the state, but she called them rare.
“There have been a couple of incidents where individuals have threatened board members to the point where security had to get involved, or a restraining order had to happen,” Randol said.
Gov. Mike Parson applauded MSBA for withdrawing from the national organization.
In a statement, he said:
“We applaud MSBA’s decision to withdraw from NSBA. Missouri parents value local control, and when it comes to our children’s education, parents have a right to know what is being taught and to have their voices heard. Recent actions by NSBA to paint parents as radicals and solicit unwarranted action by the Biden Administration shows a clear disconnect with Missouri Schools.”
“In Missouri, we have strict laws to hold those accountable who harass or threaten school personnel. Our highly-trained local law enforcement is more than capable of handling these situations and does not need the DOJ or FBI injecting federal bureaucracy into our local matters. MSBA and its members have also fostered productive and successful relationships with local law enforcement to prevent these circumstances.”
“We appreciate MSBA standing up for our students, teachers, and parents alike and recognizing that Missouri will play no part in criminalizing concerned parents. This action shows Missouri schools take parents’ First Amendment rights seriously and will protect Missourians’ abilities to speak freely and petition their local school boards. The state looks forward to working with MSBA in the future to continue advancing quality K-12 education and promoting a transparent school system.”
Of the incidents she’s aware of in the state, she said they are in the process of being resolved or already settled.
When asked if MSBA plans to rejoin the national organization in the future, Randol said, for now, it’s not on the radar.