State School Board Associations’ Responses to the NSBA Letter
On Oct. 11, 2021, Parents Defending Education emailed 47 state school board associations for comment on the NSBA’s Sept. 29, 2021, letter (Hawaii and Washington DC are not members of NSBA, and Virginia & Louisiana had already made public statements). We asked all organizations the following questions:
- As the [state association] has not yet commented on the National School Board Association’s September 29 letter to President Biden that requested federal intervention in local school board issues – which likened civic participation to “domestic terrorism and hate crimes” and cited the Patriot Act – Parents Defending Education would like to know whether your organization was involved in the creation of this letter and whether you agree with its substance and tone. If not, have you contacted the NSBA to let them know?
- Can you please tell us how, going forward, your organization defines “intimidation,” harassment,” and “threat”?
- Finally, do you plan to report individuals in your state to the U.S. Department of Justice – or do you believe that concerns can be adequately managed by local and state law enforcement?
This list will be updated as responses are received. This list also includes responses to the NSBA letter that did not come directly to Parents Defending Education but were made in public statements.
As of May 24th, 2022, 30 states have distanced themselves from the NSBA’s letter: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
26 states have taken further action—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin — to withdraw membership, participation, or dues from NSBA.
Alabama: On December 2nd the Alabama Association of School Boards voted to leave the National School Boards Association.
Alaska: no response
Arizona: On February 16, 2022 the Arizona School Boards Association notified the National School Boards Association that they had decided to discontinue their membership in the organization.
Arkansas: On December 8th, the Arkansas School Boards Association voted to leave the National School Boards Association and remove all references to NSBA from its bylaws
California: On April 1, 2022 the California School Board Association voted unanimously to sever its relationship with the National School Boards Association, effective June 30, 2022 when the current membership ends.
Colorado: no response
Connecticut: no response
The DSBA has seen school board meeting protests, some of which have become quite impassioned, however we have received NO reports of violence or threats of violence toward school staff or school board members. The DSBA does NOT condone violence or threats of violence toward students, staff or board members. After consultation with the Governor’s office, the Public Health Department and the Delaware Department of Education the DSBA developed and issued guidance to school board presidents regarding how to best handle school board meeting protests, which included the ultimate use of LOCAL law enforcement if absolutely necessary. This guidance was issued prior to the NSBA September 29 2021 letter. The NSBA letter to President Biden was unnecessary and quite frankly not helpful.
The DSBA has communicated our concerns with the letter to the NSBA numerous times and in strong language. We have made it clear to the NSBA that:
1.) It was inappropriate for the NSBA to issue the September 29, 2021 letter to President Biden without first consulting with the DSBA, as well as other state school board associations. Had the DSBA been consulted prior to the letter’s release, we would NOT have allowed the DSBA to be associated with the letter and we would have asked that the language “On behalf of our state associations and more than 90,000 school board members who govern our country’s 14,000 local public school districts…” be changed to reflect that the DSBA does not support the letter and should not be generally included in it.
2.) The DSBA disagrees, in the strongest possible terms, with parents and citizens protesting school board meetings being characterized as “domestic terrorists” and their protests being likened to “hate crimes”. The DSBA firmly asserts that citizen and public engagement in school board meetings is an integral and vital aspect of school board governance. We also made it clear that any attempt to silence citizens’ voices is a clear violation of their rights to free speech.
3.) The DSBA is an apolitical advocacy organization, and we do not engage in partisan politics. The DSBA Constitution prohibits the endorsement of political candidates, as we seek to focus on the needs of students and the communities served by our member school districts.
4.) The September 29, 2021 NSBA letter to President Biden was a clear overreach on the part of the NSBA and it violates the fundamental principle of local authority, upon which the Delaware public education system is founded and structured. Local authority includes the local school board governance of the district as well as the local citizens’ authority over the board and district, through participation in board meetings, electing board members, as well as voting on taxation referenda.
The Delaware School Boards Association remains focused on the work of advocating for the needs of students and public education in general. We will not be distracted by the NSBA’s departure from proper and prudent boardsmanship.
Florida: On November 30th, The Florida School Boards Association voted unanimously to withdraw from the National School Boards Association.
The Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) was not consulted about this letter, did not provide information to NSBA, and was not informed that the letter was being sent, even though a Georgia school district was used as an example in the letter.
GSBA supports the constitutional authority of local boards to manage and control the public schools of this state. Elected officials and appointed leadership who are closest to the community are best suited to make those decisions, especially the hard ones.
GSBA and its 180 local board of education members also strongly support the principle that parents are a vital part of the public education process. Local boards in Georgia work very hard to listen to parents and other members of the community and to work as a collaborative team for the safety and achievement of all students.
There is no justification for physical or verbal threats directed against them, their staff and certainly not the students. Nor is there any excuse for disrupting a public meeting. When such unfortunate events occur, the local officials, working with local law enforcement, must deal with the situation appropriately. While we look for support to our state and federal governments, we do not seek the involvement of federal law enforcement or other officials in local decisions.
Hawaii: not a member of NSBA
Idaho: On February 21, 2022 during a hearing of the Senate Education Committee, Jason Knopp announced that the Idaho School Board Association had terminated its membership with the National School Boards Association.
Illinois: On November 18th, Illinois voted to withdraw from the the National School Boards Association.
At its November 18, 2021 meeting the IASB Board of Directors voted to end the Association’s membership in the National School Boards Association (NSBA). IASB membership in NSBA will terminate effective immediately.
This decision follows repeated attempts by representatives of IASB and other state associations to bring about changes in governance, transparency and government oversight necessary to ensure the viability of the national organization and IASB’s membership in it.
Indiana (the below came in an emailed response to Parents Defending Education on October 20, 2021.
I, on behalf of the Indiana School Boards Association, have publicly stated disagreement with the NSBA letter to President Biden. The request for federal law enforcement response was an overreach and an intervention ISBA does not support. ISBA believes in local control, and we wish to work with parents and community members to do what is best for children. I believe a retraction of the letter by NSBA is warranted.
We believe that our elected leaders need to hear from the communities that they govern. We value the voices of our parents and our communities. Any criminal behavior, including but not limited to violence, threats, harassment, or intimidation, should not be tolerated. There is no place in our public discourse for behavior that is outside of the limits set by the law. Generally, local law enforcement agencies are the best partners for our local school boards to address the safety and security of all persons during public meetings in their communities. We call for individuals wishing to speak publicly at a board meeting to demonstrate civility and respect alongside the passionate exchange of concerns and ideas. I also agree with Republicans on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that acknowledged recently that actual violence and threats of imminent violence are not protected speech and have no place in the public discourse of democracy.
ISBA advocates for a fair opportunity for all interested parties to provide public comment. When one person, or a group of people, intentionally disrupt board meetings, they are infringing on the first amendment rights of the other parents and citizens who are present and who wish to speak in a thoughtful and respectful manner to be heard by the board. Everyone, regardless of their positions on various issues, deserves to be heard if they abide by board policy for public comments.
Iowa: Statement issued on October 14
A recent action by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is generating
considerable comment in the press and on social media. The Iowa Association of School Boards
(IASB) feels it is important to ensure our members understand the issue that has occurred as well as
On September 29, the Interim Executive Director and the President of NSBA sent a letter to President Biden to request federal law enforcement assistance to address a growing number of threats of violence or illegal intimidation occurring nationally to school boards and educators. While affirming the commitment of school boards to hear from their communities and the importance of free speech, the letter provided 20 instances of threats, harassment, disruption or intimidation as examples of the concerning trend. NSBA cited several laws that provide authority for federal intervention, and requested that a joint collaboration among federal law enforcement agencies, state and local law enforcement, and public school officials be undertaken to focus on these threats.
On October 4, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the FBI and U.S Attorney’s Offices have
been directed to meet in the next 30 days with federal, state and local law enforcement leaders to
discuss strategies to address threats, stating that the session will open dedicated lines of
communication for threat reporting, assessment and response by law enforcement. The Justice
Department also indicated it will launch additional efforts designed to address criminal conduct, and will create specialized training and guidance for local school boards and school administrators.
Organizations, individuals and some media outlets nationally have been highly critical of this effort.
Most state the concern that the effort is intended to or will inhibit parental voice or advocacy with their school board. Many are citing language from NSBA’s letter that states, “As these acts of malice,
violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous
actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
IASB respectfully disagrees with NSBA’s recent decision to request intervention from federal agencies
and law enforcement, and the decision by NSBA leadership to tie the request to claims of domestic
terrorism and hate crimes. NSBA did not consult IASB before it issued its request.
Iowa school boards value and care deeply about parent views on issues affecting children. School
boards are providing forums for public opinion, including civil dissent, as part of full and fair deliberation on public issues. Iowans are largely highly civil, even in heated discussions of controversial issues.
Kansas: no response
Kentucky: On November 10th we got word that Kentucky had withdrawn from NSBA.
We knew that KSBA was “evaluating the benefits of continued membership in NSBA…watching for much needed correction action from NSBA’s leadership and a renewed commitment to transparency.”
According to a spokesperson for KSBA, the decision to withdraw was “in response to a pattern of dysfunction within the organization.” Also, “KSBA objected to the tone, incendiary language and some characterizations made within” NSBA’s Sept. letter about threats to school boards.
KSBA confirms it withdrew from NSBA, its national group, "in response to a pattern of dysfunction within the organization."— Olivia Krauth (@oliviakrauth) November 10, 2021
"KSBA objected to the tone, incendiary language and some characterizations made within" NSBA's Sept. letter about threats to school boards, a spox said.
Louisiana: On October 15, the Louisiana School Board Association ended its affiliation with the NSBA.
On Friday, October 15, 2021, the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA)
Board of Directors held a meeting. The agenda included consideration of the LSBA’s
continued involvement in the National School Boards Association (NSBA). After
discussing benefits and concerns, the LSBA Board of Directors voted to direct the
Executive Director of the LSBA to notify the NSBA that the Association would not
The Association has not yet paid membership dues to the NSBA for the 2021-2022
year, so there is no expected revenue forfeiture associated with this decision. This
decision follows the NSBA’s recent request for federal intervention (See the LSBA’s
response to the NSBA’s request issued October 8, 2021). However, the LSBA Board
of Directors had previously taken under advisement a possible withdrawal from the
NSBA due to ongoing concerns over management, leadership, and the general
direction of their organization.
Today’s decision by the LSBA Board of Directors is an official response that the
LSBA can no longer identify the value of continued membership in the organization.
The LSBA Board of Directors feels it is best to redirect the resources previously
allocated to the NSBA to educational advocacy efforts that more closely align with
the LSBA’s guiding principles developed by its membership.
The LSBA is committed to supporting school systems across the state. We thank
you for your leadership in public education and look forward to new and exciting
opportunities for our members.
Maine: no response
Maryland: no response
Massachusetts: no response
Michigan: no response
Minnesota: On January 4th, 2022 the Minnesota School Boards Association sent a letter to school board chairs and superintendents throughout the state to let them know that MSBA had voted to terminate its membership with NSBA.
Mississippi: On November 15, the Mississippi School Boards Association voted to terminate its membership in NSBA.
After a lengthy discussion and careful consideration, the Mississippi School Boards Association (MSBA) Board of Directors voted on November 15, 2021, to terminate its membership with the National School Boards Association (NSBA).
Missouri: The Missouri School Board Association withdrew from the NSBA.
Last week, your board of directors met and made the difficult decision to withdraw MSBA’s participation in the National School Boards Association, effective immediately.
This decision was not made lightly. The National School Boards Association, 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.
School boards have always been asked to make tough decisions, and to do what is right for the students under their responsibility. These decisions often bring about thoughtful and rigorous discussion, which we believe is crucial to the discernment process.
We also believe that no school board member or educator should ever have to endure threats of violence or acts of intimidation against themselves or their families for making these difficult decisions. However, attempting to address that issue with federal intervention should not be the first step in most cases, and is antithetical to our longstanding tradition of local control. Further, the use of inflammatory terms in the NSBA letter is not a model for promoting greater civility and respect for the democratic process.
On Friday, the National School Boards Association distributed an apologY. statement for the letter issued by their interim executive director and president. While that is a step in the right direction, we believe NSBA still has significant work ahead, both implementing processes and procedures to prevent similar problems in the future, as well as repairing their fractured relationships.
Montana: The Montana School Board Association will formally leave the NSBA in July 2022, as the state association already renewed its membership in July of this year.
The final straw was a letter written by the interim CEO and NSBA president in September asking President Joe Biden for federal law enforcement assistance to deal with threats of violence and intimidation over COVID-19 requirements at schools.
Nebraska: On June 11, 2022 the Nebraska Association of School Boards’ board of directors officially voted to formally cut ties with the National School Boards Association.
Nevada: no response
New Hampshire: On October 28th, the New Hampshire School Boards Association announced that it will withdraw from the National School Board Association. They have not formalized their letter yet.
Dear NHSBA Members –
This email is to inform you that NHSBA has decided to withdraw its membership from the National School Boards Association, effective immediately. NSBA’s recent actions have made our continued membership untenable.
NHSBA is finalizing its formal letter to the National School Boards Association relative to our withdrawal. We will share that letter with membership as soon as possible.
The New Hampshire School Boards Association was not consulted before the letter/press release was sent by the National School Boards Association to President Biden regarding disruptions at school board meetings. NHSBA was not consulted, was not asked to opine, and was not asked to provide input.
New Jersey: Here is an email the New Jersey School Boards Association sent to its members—it does not include a date but sources tell us it was sent on November 6th.
Some of you have reached out to us to share your views and concerns regarding recent communication from the National School Boards Association (NSBA).
On Sept. 29, a letter was sent by the NSBA to the Biden administration urging the federal government to help education officials respond to harassment and threats. The letter suggested “actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” and that has been interpreted, in some cases, as an attack on parents and citizens voicing concerns at board of education meetings.
The letter from NSBA was sent without the input or approval of the New Jersey School Boards Association; we did not even receive advance notice that it was going out.
NJSBA does not endorse this letter, nor does it reflect the beliefs and policies of NJSBA.
NJSBA strongly supports the ability of parents and citizens to voice their opinions at board meetings, which is a fundamental principle of our democracy. Community input and local control of boards is at the heart of what NJSBA has advocated for since its founding in 1914. One of the bedrock beliefs of our Association is that the parent-school district partnership is critically important, and that parents are the ultimate advocates for their children’s education.
For those unfamiliar with the structure of NSBA, it is an organization of state school boards associations. However the group has no control or oversight over the New Jersey School Boards Association, and is not a “parent organization” of NJSBA. Nor does it directly represent local boards of education, which are not their members.
NJSBA has expressed its disapproval of NSBA’s statement and will work to ensure that the national organization adheres to the primary mission of enabling the nation’s local boards of education to advance the education, health and safety of the nation’s public school students.
NJSBA is fortunate to have member school boards with a diversity of perspectives. We consider this a strength, and we encourage the healthy exchange of ideas and experiences among our membership. In the event that violent or threatening behavior were to occur at a board of education meeting, local law enforcement is typically well-suited to handle the disturbance.
Boards of education want meetings to be safe, inclusive and productive. A recent issue of School Leader magazine included an article, “Calming the Crowd,” which offered practical advice for managing contentious board meetings. The article can be found here.
|cc: Superintendents, School Business Administrators|
New Mexico: no response
New York: no response
North Carolina: The North Carolina School Board Association voted on November 11th to pull its membership from the NSBA. The vote occurred at their Annual Conference for Board Member Development.
North Dakota: The North Dakota School Board Association voted on June 17 to withdraw from NSBA.
At its annual planning and budgeting meeting on June 17, the North Dakota School board Association’s board of directors voted to not renew the association’s membership in the National School Board Association. — Grand Forks Herald
Ohio: On October 26, the Ohio School Board Association announced that it has ended its affiliation with the NSBA.
“We were not informed of or asked for any input into the creation of the letter sent to the
president,” Lewis said. “We believe in the value of parental and community discussion at
school board meetings, and there is tremendous value in allowing and encouraging the public
to have meaningful input into the decision-making process. However, that participation should
not come at the expense of interfering with the board’s ability to conduct its business or
subjecting individual board members to threats of violence, abuse, or harassment. But dealing
with such interference should be dealt with at the local level, not by federal officials.
“We believe the letter from NSBA leadership demonstrated how out of touch the
national association is with the concerns of local school boards and the principle of local
control. Because of that, OSBA no longer sees the value of continued NSBA membership.”
Oklahoma: no response
Oregon: no response
Pennsylvania: On October 20, an article from WESA revealed that the Pennsylvania Schools Boards Association withdrew from the National School Boards Association.
“The most recent national controversy surrounding a letter to President Biden suggesting that some parents should be considered domestic terrorists was the final straw,” the statement reads. “This misguided approach has made our work and that of many school boards more difficult. It has fomented more disputes and cast partisanship on our work on behalf of school directors, when we seek to find common ground and support all school directors in their work, no matter their politics.”
PSBA had already been questioning the value of its NSBA membership, according to the statement, claiming the federation “is not focused on bipartisanship, civility and seeking solutions to the internal problems that have plagued the national organization for so long.”
Rhode Island: Did not respond but Timothy Duffy, Executive Director of the RI Association of School Committees, wrote in an email to his board that has since been obtained via a public records request, “I believe we should ignore this.”
South Carolina: The Montana School Boards Association will formally leave the NSBA in July 2022, as the state association already renewed its membership in July of this year.
Over the past few weeks, SCSBA leadership has carefully monitored NSBA’s actions, advocating and watching for a clear path forward and affirmative steps to address the damage done in relation to NSBA’s September 29 letter to President Joe Biden. NSBA has taken few steps to mitigate the negative impact of the letter on many states including South Carolina. On the whole, the Board felt it was in the best interest of SCSBA’s membership to sever ties with NSBA at once.
South Dakota: no response
Tennessee: The Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) terminated its affiliation with the National School Boards Association (NSBA) in June of 2021.
Texas: The Texas Association of School Boards announced on May 23rd, 2022 that they were ending their membership in the National School Boards Association.
Utah: no response
Vermont: no response
Virginia: On November 18th, the Virginia School Board Association voted to terminate membership in the NSBA.
The VSBA Board of Directors held a special meeting on Thursday, November 18 during which the board voted to end its membership in NSBA effective June 30, 2022.
Washington: no response
Washington DC: not a member of NSBA
West Virginia: On February 19th, 2022 the West Virginia School Board Association voted unanimously not to join the National School Boards Association in FY2023.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin Association of School Boards voted to not renew its membership in the National School Boards Association for the 2022-23 school year.”
I would like to let you know that the Wyoming School Boards Association had no role in drafting or disseminating the letter from the National School Boards Association to President Biden. We were not consulted and did not contribute to its contents. The first we saw of this communication was as it was sent. We regret that we did not have the opportunity to review the letter or be involved in discussions about the specific content of the letter prior to its release. We object to the tone and the language contained in this letter.
Wyoming tends to be a strong proponent of local control. That means that we tend to think that the government closest to the people governs the best. We believe that our elected leaders need to hear from the communities that they govern. We value the voices of our parents and our communities. We value civil discourse and feedback that helps us to improve the educational opportunities for our students. We believe that citizens have a duty to be civil in their discourse and their interactions with government leaders. Most instances in Wyoming have been civil. Unfortunately, there have been some instances where individuals have not acted in a civil manner. There is no place in our public discourse for behavior that is outside of the limits set by the law. Any criminal behavior, including but not limited to violence, threats, harassment, or intimidation, should not be tolerated. We have seen instances of some of these things in Wyoming. We believe that local law enforcement is best suited to respond to these criminal acts.
We do reject any form of violence for political ends at school board meetings. Civil discourse is a bedrock of our representative form of government. We believe that our local law enforcement agencies are generally the best partners for our local school boards to address the safety and security needs for their districts. As such, we believe it best for law enforcement to determine what constitutes intimidation, harassment, or threats. Those who fail to adhere to the law should face appropriate consequences.