From the Greenville News:
The South Carolina School Board Association has severed ties with the National School Board Association after pressure from state lawmakers and parents.
In a message sent to members Monday, the state school board association said that the national group had not done enough to mitigate the “negative impact” of a letter to the Biden administration, where NSBA had claimed that school boards around the country were being intimidated and threatened against COVID-19 safety measures.
The NSBA letter asked for federal intervention to protect educators and schools.
“We started hearing from local school boards that people in the community had concerns about the NSBA letter,” said Executive Director Scott Price when asked the specifics of the “negative impacts.”
“We just felt that in order to go ahead and hopefully keep that from continuing to grow and manifesting itself at the local level, it was in our best interest to take the steps that we took,” he said.
But what recourse did other educators and parents have who felt intimidated or threatened?
To that, Price said “especially now we’ve seen through the pandemic, they [school boards] do have meetings where people are vocal and are addressing concerns. But if the opportunity presents itself school boards can handle that either themselves or they can involve local law enforcement, if necessary.”
However, a federal intervention went against the values of South Carolina, which were centered around local decision making, he said.
To the question of whether the state association was responding to pressure, Price said that there was always pressure. “The pressure here was related to our membership,” he said.
In September, with debates of mask mandates and social distancing dominating meetings, the NSBA wrote a letter seeking “federal assistance to stop threats and acts of violence against public school-children, public school board members, and other public school district officials and educators.”
“As the threats grow and news of extremist hate organizations showing up at school board meetings is being reported, this is a critical time for a proactive approach to deal with this difficult issue,” the NSBA letter said.
Soon after, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo authorizing the FBI to investigate threats against school board members.
The language of NSBA’s letter did not sit well with several lawmakers and parents across the country. Multiple petitions demanding that state school board associations leave the national group came from several states.
In South Carolina, 36 GOP lawmakers signed a letter criticizing the NSBA and said that the threats of intimidation and harassment in schools were false. The lawmakers asked the state organization to withdraw its membership from the national group.
The state school board association called for a special meeting on Nov. 5 to discuss the timeline of events. “This decision [of leaving the national association] was not made lightly,” said SCBA’s letter to the national organization.
Rep. Stewart Jones, R-Laurens, who led a petition demanding the state association’s withdrawal said that he was thrilled by the news. “We’re defending the rights of parents to have that greater choice and education and I think this is a great sign,” he said.
Devyani Chhetri is the state government watchdog reporter. You can reach her at [email protected] or @ChhetriDevyani on Twitter.