The Indiana School Boards Association is taking a low-key approach to the letter sent by its national association to President Joe Biden, asking for the FBI, Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security to look at prosecuting parents who misbehave at school board meetings.
“I guess we’ve had a wait-and-see approach to it,” Tom Simpson, president of the board of the Indiana School Boards Association, said Tuesday.
The association, he said, is meeting next week and he expects the issue will be discussed.
He said the letter sent by the National School Boards Association to Biden on Sept. 29 was not reviewed by him or anyone at the Indiana School Boards Association before it went out.
“It was a surprise, frankly, to many associations,” he said.
He said he doesn’t know of any threats to school board members in Indiana and doesn’t see a need for the federal government to interfere with school board meetings in Indiana.
“I’d much rather see local school boards handle things internally rather than asking the federal government to get involved,” he said.
The from the National School Boards Association asks for “immediate assistance” from the federal government to protect school boards and other school staff from parents, alluding to “attacks against school board members.” It requests the administration involve the Department of Justice, FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service and National Threat Assessment Center, as well as the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to collaborate on handling the threats faced by school board members and school administrators and asked that the Patriot Act, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Gun-Free School Zones Act and other federal laws be invoked where appropriate.
It also said threats that school board members are facing could be considered “domestic terrorism.”
The letter is signed by the president of the association, Viola Garcia, and by Chip Slaven, the interim executive director of the National School Boards Association.
Simpson said the Indiana School Boards Association has not had any discussion about withdrawing from the national association, as Pennsylvania has done, and has not formally asked for a retraction of the letter.
“I don’t believe we’ve made an official request for the letter to be retracted as an association,” he said.
He noted that state school boards associations have expressed issues with the letter.
“I don’t know if we received any feedback from local school boards,” he said.
ISBA Executive Director Terry Spradlin told the CBS affiliate in Fort Wayne in early October the behavior of some people at school board meetings in Indiana “has risen to the level of shock and concern.”
He said the letter sent to Biden was “well intended” but represents an “overreach.”
“The intent was to protect all patrons at school board meetings,” Spradlin said this week of the letter.
But he said that the association “disagreed with the letter from the start” and has “communicated privately” to the national association through a liaison.
He called the letter “not suitable, not appropriate, not what we would ask for.”
And he said “bad behavior can never be condoned” at school board meetings.
Craig Ladwig, the head of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, which publishes a quarterly journal focused on state issues, said the letter from the National School Boards Association and the announcement by Attorney General Merrick Garland on Oct. 4 that the Department of Justice will get involved in threats to school boards, has already caused a chilling effect.
“I think the thing that worries me is, the chilling is already done,” he said. “We’re already two or three levels down from a healthy discussion.”
He said he doesn’t think people realize this.
“If you can’t even go down to your local school board and voice your complaint in any way that you think is adequate, we’re totally lost,” he said.
This article was originally posted on Indiana School Boards Association takes ‘wait and see approach’ to national letter calling for parents to be prosecuted by feds