The Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) voted to leave the National School Board Association (NSBA). The Thursday decision places the VSBA in the company of other state school board associations who are dissociating from the NSBA after the national association sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking for federal law enforcement to respond to threats and attacks related to school board politics.
However, that’s not the only reason the VSBA wants to leave.
“VSBA’s decision to withdraw from NSBA was necessary, but not made lightly and was not based merely on the letter that the NSBA Leadership sent to President Biden calling for broad federal law enforcement intervention. The decision to end membership with NSBA effective June 30, 2022, was made in response to a persistent pattern of dysfunction within the NSBA organization and among those charged with its governance,” the state association told Virginia school boards in a letter.
The VSBA will work with other state associations to continue providing training opportunities and national lobbying to replace opportunities lost by the withdrawal. The VSBA will officially withdraw membership on June 30, 2022, a timeline chosen to allow members time to prepare for the transition. In an FAQ, the VSBA said 13 other state associations had voted to withdraw their membership as of November 18.
On September 29, the NSBA said in its letter to Biden, “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation.”
“Coupled with attacks against school board members and educators for approving policies for masks to protect the health and safety of students and school employees, many public school officials are also facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula. This propaganda continues despite the fact that critical race theory is not taught in public schools and remains a complex law school and graduate school subject well beyond the scope of a K–12 class,” the letter said.
The document cites incidents including the June 22 Loudoun County School Board meeting where Scott Smith, father of a student who was sexually assaulted, was arrested.
The NSBA requested assistance from a broad range of federal law enforcement ranging from the Secret Service to the Postal Inspection Service to address threats and acts of violence.
A month later, the NSBA issued an apology for the letter, stating in part, “On behalf of NSBA, we regret and apologize for the letter. To be clear, the safety of school board members, other public school officials and educators, and students is our top priority, and there remains important work to be done on this issue. However, there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter. We should have had a better process in place to allow for consultation on a communication of this significance,” the association wrote, noting that they were undergoing a formal review of their processes and procedures.”
Shortly afterward, the original letter citing parents as a threat was scrubbed from the site, and the purported author was tapped by the Biden administration to serve on the National Assessment Governing Board.
Other Rationale for Withdrawal
In the motion to withdraw, the VSBA said that the NSBA had lost “focus on supporting community ownership and excellence of public schools over the last decade.”
The state association said the NSBA’s leadership isn’t able to restore that focus, and hasn’t responded to the concerns of state associations.
“Despite this warning and subsequent actions taken by the Delegate Assembly in August of 2021 to successfully change NSBA’s Constitution in a manner that was supported by nearly 90 percent of the NSBA Delegates, NSBA’s leadership continues to persist in ineffective behaviors that negatively impact state school boards associations, member public school divisions, and the children served by our K–12 public schools as is evidenced by the recent letter authored by the Interim CEO and the President of NSBA to the Biden Administration,” the VSBA said.
Virginia Beach School Board Member Victoria Manning told The Virginia Star that she automatically became a VSBA member when she was elected to the school board.
“I don’t anticipate [the withdrawal] will impact local boards at all. I am not aware of any resources they provide other than annual conventions that I have never attended,” she said. ” I’ve never really been involved with the VSBA because they have typically been too politically liberal. However, I’m pleased that they stood against the NSBA’s attack on parents.”
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