ALEXANDRIA, Va. — From its headquarters here on Duke Street, just north on the Potomac River from George Washington’s Mt. Vernon home, the National School Boards Association declared war on an unexpected enemy that has been the fabric of America since its birth hundreds of years ago: parents.
In a September 30 letter to President Joe Biden, the National School Boards Association sent a vitriolic missive to the president, with a laundry list of allegations of “malice, violence, and threats” by parents, alleging incredulously: “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.”
To be sure, in its six-page rant, the national association doesn’t mention the word “parents,” as if to acknowledge us in even their attack is to validate us. But we know. The attack is clearly directed at one target: the thousands of parents who have valiantly overcome their own fears of retaliation, public speaking and confrontation to advocate in defense of their children, from Seattle, Wash., to South Kingston, R.I.
The association of parents to “domestic terrorism” by the National School Boards Association is not only a slap in the face to sincere parents, but it is — tragically — a cruel insult to victims of terrorism around the world.
This is not an idle threat. As the association notes in its letter: it represents state associations with “more than 90,000 school board members who govern our country’s 14,000 local public school districts educating more than 50 million schoolchildren.”
Allow these facts to sink in: the trade group representing 90,000 school board members in 14,000 public school districts. And it just equated parent protests to “domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
Who is the National School Boards Association?
To understand the National School Boards Association, I went where we always have to go to understand a “nonprofit” organization: the association’s form 990 tax filing. According to its 2019 filing, the most recent one available online, the association had $19.2 million in revenues. That’s $19.2 million in revenues — about 10 times the bus replacement costs this year in Carmel Clay, Ind., where parents, in a group called Unify Carmel, are likely on the radar now for this alleged smear of “domestic terrorism” because they bravely dare to challenge local school board officials at meetings.
Two people signed the school board association’s letter: the group’s president, Viola Garcia (an Aldine, Tex., school board member) and its interim executive director and president, Chip Slaven, a West Virginia native (like me) who joined the association in 2019 as its director of advocacy.
With teachers paid as little as $25,000 in some school districts, maybe $50,000 in others, Slaven’s salary isn’t in the 2019 filing. But that year, now-retired executive director Thomas Gentzel was paid $437,310 — enough to pay a dozen first-year teachers.
The 501(c)3 organization has a sister 501(c)4 lobbying organization, the National School Boards Action Center, and we can not ignore its political influence in Washington, where its lobbying is well documented.
Beyond the politics, the school board association has joined the teachers’ unions in insulting parents nationwide. And it somehow didn’t get the memo by the teachers’ unions defending the teaching of the divisive ideology of critical race theory in schools. At Parents Defending Education, a national advocacy organization for parents, we noted that the school board group’s claims is “laughably dishonest.”
We must express our dismay at this attack on parents. Tweet a video or photo of yourself — American’s latest “domestic terrorist — to the school board association at @NSBAPublicEd, with a simple message: #UnapologeticParent.
Call their offices at (703) 838-6722. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy me at email@example.com. Let me know if I can post your comments — with or without your name. Be unapologetic. All of us condemn violence. We will not accept their character assassinations.
For my part, I videotaped a response to the school board association at my kitchen sink. According to the school board association I am what a domestic terrorist looks like. That is not okay, and the school board association owes every parent in America an apology.
Beyond the journalists, lawyers, tradespeople and entrepreneurs that we are in our day jobs — we are parents 24 hours a day, from the kitchen sink to the carpool line.
And, for the past 20 years, since the attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001, I have chased terrorists around the world, from the Taliban ambassador I interviewed in Islamabad, Pakistan, as bombs dropped in Afghanistan in October 2001, to the men who kidnapped and murdered my friend and Wall Street Journal colleague Daniel Pearl.
As parents, we are accidental activists in service to our children and our country.
Of course, violence and actual terrorism is wrong, immoral and illegal.
Buried in its footnotes, the school board association attributed the slanderous charge of “domestic terrorism” to these incidents:
Winery entrepreneur, Jon Tiggs getting arrested after he yelled at his school board in Loudoun County, Va., for prematurely ending public comments;
An “unruly crowd” at a Spotsylvania, Pa., board meeting;
Protesters who “disrupt” a school board in Poway Unified School District, Calif.
In its assessment, the National School Boards Association is targeting ordinary, courageous local mother Stacy Langton, who last week stood before the Fairfax County School Board and exposed explicit examples of child porn and pedophilia in library books in the school district’s schools, available to children as young as 11 years old. (The video has explicit sexual material.)
Langton’s witness ended in mayhem because our school board failed to do something that school boards — and the National School Boards Association — have failed to do nationally: actually listen to the stakeholders — and taxpayers — who are parents. They rudely interrupted her two minutes and called a recess, with one board member, Karl Frisch, misrepresenting Catholic prayers by some community members in the audience as “exorcisms.” These community members were sincerely disturbed to the core by the graphic nature of the books in schools, including an illustration of a “blow job.” But our school board members didn’t miss the opportunity to ridicule parents.
Across the country, school board members treat parents like dirt.
I know. Earlier this year, I stood there at the podium, as a local school board member, Ricardy Anderson, scolded me like a petulant child and yelled: “Your time has EXPIIIIREEED. Go to your seat!”
But last week, after Langton spoke, I returned to the podium to tell our school board — in my allowed two minutes — that they had become a national embarrassment, and they were failing to do the job they were elected to do: listen to constituents.
Because of her courage, Langton’s issue of child porn and pedophilia in schools emerged as an issue in the gubernatorial debate this week between Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe and Republican candidate Glenn Younkin, and Youngkin featured Langton’s speech in a political ad, punctuated by McAuliffe’s controversial debate statement: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
From McAuliffe to the National School Boards Association, launching a war on parents is a very, very serious mistake, not only politically but morally. It is a parent who nurses a child through the night, long after the school bell has rung. It is a parent who wipes away tears as a first crush goes unrequited. It is a parent who loves a child unconditionally. Misguided policymakers, politicians and school board members need to end their war on parents, apologize and engage with parents from a place of respect and humility. They need to get their finger off the mute button. And listen.