By Stefanie Jackson – The Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA), a nonpartisan organization that provides training and services to school boards throughout Virginia, including those in Accomack and Northampton counties, held a special meeting Nov. 18 and voted to end its membership in the National School Boards Association (NSBA).
The decision was reached in the aftermath of a controversial move by the NSBA on Sept. 29 when it sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting “federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation” at school board meetings.
The NSBA letter gained national attention by equating the alleged threats to acts of “domestic terrorism” by parents and concerned citizens.
These “threats of violence” were in response to school boards “approving policies for masks to protect the health and safety of students” and citizens spreading “propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory with classroom instruction and curricula,” the NSBA letter stated.
The NSBA cited two dozen reports by major news outlets, including one published June 23 on the NBC Washington website, concerning the chaotic June 22 Loudoun County school board meeting, during which parent Scott Smith was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice.
His daughter is a Loudoun County high school student who was sexually assaulted at school May 28 by a male student wearing a skirt.
Smith later told various news organizations that his June 22 outburst was incited by an individual at the school board meeting who did not believe his daughter had been sexually assaulted. Smith is suing the NSBA for defamation for referring to him as a “domestic terrorist.”
The NSBA released another letter on Oct. 22, which stated, “we regret and apologize for the letter” to President Biden and added, “there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter.”
But it appeared the damage already had been done. As early as Oct. 15, state school board associations began taking action against NSBA by withdrawing their memberships or withholding annual dues.
As of Nov. 18, Virginia is one of 15 states that have cut ties with the NSBA. The others are Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, according to www.defendinged.org
However, according to a VSBA letter on Nov. 19, the decision to withdraw NSBA membership was “not made lightly and was not based merely on the letter that the NSBA Leadership sent to President Biden.” VSBA noted “a persistent pattern of dysfunction within the NSBA organization and among those charged with its governance.”
“For several years VSBA and many other state associations have repeatedly asked for corrective actions with governance and finances and received little to no action from NSBA,” the VSBA letter continued.
VSBA’s membership in the NSBA will not expire until June 30, 2022, “not because it believes in the current direction of NSBA, but because we believe in you, our member boards,” the association said.
VSBA’s goal is a strong, unified association “with local control of public education at its core. … We cannot allow any organization to overstep the principles on which we were founded 115 years ago,” the letter stated.
VSBA provided further details in a separate document. Local school boards that participate in the National Connection program, the Council of Urban Boards of Education, or the Council of School Attorneys may continue to access to those programs through June 30, 2022.
School board members also may participate in NSBA meetings and conferences, including its 2022 annual conference in San Diego, through June 30, 2022.
Prior to this year, all 50 states except Hawaii had state school board associations that were members of the NSBA.