“If we had been asked, we would have objected to certain language in the letter as inflammatory and misguided”
By Guy Page
The Vermont School Board Association (VSBA) has distanced itself from the National School Board Association letter asking Pres. Biden for Dept. of Justice assistance with angry parents at school board meetings.
The Sept. 29 NSBA letter to the president compared parents protesting critical race theory, mask mandates and other issues to domestic terrorists, requesting federal help, according to reporting in Center Square and other media. In response, the Dept. of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland instructed the FBI to work with local law enforcement in every school district in the nation to monitor protests at school board meetings.
The VSBA was never asked for input from the NSBA and was not informed it was sent, despite the NSBA letter implying endorsement from every state association, a Nov. 15 VSBA statement says.
“If we had been asked, we would have objected to certain language in the letter as inflammatory and misguided,” the VSBA statement says.
As reported Nov. 12, 26 state school board associations had distanced themselves from the controversial NSBA letter. At the time, Vermont was not among them.
A copy of the VSBA letter was emailed today to Vermont Daily Chronicle by Executive Director Sue Ceglowski, in response to a Nov. 11 question: “According to this Center Square news report, VSBA is not among the 26 state school board associations citing disagreement with the national SB association asking DOJ for assistance with unruly attendees at school board meetings. Has VSBA discussed the letter, and if so is it in agreement with the 26 states?”
The full text of the Nov. 15 VSBA statement appears below.
“This statement communicates the Vermont School Boards Association (VSBA) position regarding the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) September 29, 2021 letter to President Biden requesting federal intervention regarding threats, intimidation, and harassment toward locally elected school board members.
“VSBA was never asked to provide input to NSBA nor were we informed that the letter was being sent. The letter incorrectly implied the endorsement of every state association and its members. If we had been asked, we would have objected to certain language in the letter as inflammatory and misguided.
“On October 22, NSBA issued an apology, saying it values the work of local school boards and the input of parents “who should and must continue to be heard when it comes to decisions about their children’s education, health and safety.” The NSBA said “we regret and apologize for the letter.” NSBA also promised to review its processes and procedures to ensure coordination and consultation on future significant communications. NSBA’s apology is appropriate and welcome.
“VSBA values the engagement of parents and community members in Vermont public schools – engaging the community is one of six main areas outlined in our Essential Work of School Boards Tool Kit. School boards are in the strongest position when they are engaged with the community and clear in their vision for education. Strengthening positive community relationships has never been more important as school boards strive to support students and families during the pandemic.
“VSBA believes threats of violence when discussing school policies are never appropriate and advises school boards to work with local law enforcement when there are questions about safety. The VSBA urges all educational stakeholders to (1) teach and model conflict resolution and consensus building as those skills are necessary for the health and wellbeing of tomorrow’s society and (2) engage in civil discourse as we set a course for the future of our schools and communities.
“We must renounce divisive tactics and be the leaders our children and youth deserve. Our number one priority is keeping students safely in school and engaged for in-person learning. We call on the citizens of Vermont to exemplify qualities of leadership – including civil discourse, respect, and empathy — for the benefit of the children and youth in our communities.”