A seat on a local school board isn’t traditionally a controversial, high-profile position.
Boards of education do not usually make front-page news.
They aren’t responsible for national security, federal budgets, environmental policy, healthcare, defense, or immigration.
Most couldn’t pick their elected school officials out in a crowd.
But these aren’t traditional, usual times.
2021 began with an attempted coup fueled by the “big lie” that the only way Donald Trump could have lost to Joe Biden is because the election was “rigged.”
Social media–particularly Facebook–is awash in right-wing extremist activity disseminating hate, violence, and misinformation.
So much of that hate and violence has been lately directed at school board members and school district personnel, the FBI is being asked to step in.
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to the White House last month requesting “immediate assistance” for teachers, students, and school board members facing threats over mask mandates and critical race theory.
People outside Sarasota Sch Bd member Shirley Brown’s house tonight: “We see you in there, Shirley. We want you to come out for a redress of grievances. This is the line we will die on. Shirley, come out. We have some questions and we have demands that need to be met.” pic.twitter.com/iHQxnzbdEK
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) October 5, 2021
In that letter, NSBA President Viola Garcia and interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven assert:
“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 also notes 20 examples of threats and harassment, like from an Illinois man arrested in September for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct after allegedly attacking a school official at a meeting.
Then there’s the man from Michigan who flashed a Nazi salute protesting face-masking policies.
A letter mailed to an Ohio school board member who was called a “filthy traitor” is reported to have said ”We are coming after you. You are forcing them to wear mask—for no reason in this world other than control. And for that you will pay dearly.”
Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland stated federal officials, including FBI authorities, would soon meet with school district leaders in across the country.
Garland explained in a memo:
“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values. Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety.”
He added the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) would be announcing additional measures soon.
Adding to the urgency is the possibility that many of the individuals threatening school personnel do not even have kids in their districts, but are agitators who have been radicalized on the internet.
Right-wing chatter online has continued to concern the intelligence community and law enforcement.
As another election nears, threats to poll workers and other elections officials increase.
Now that threat has infiltrated our school communities.
Image credit: Wikipedia