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MSBA leaves national association following ‘domestic terrorists’ controversy

The Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) has left the national group after it “demonstrated it does not currently align with MSBA’s guiding principles of local governance,” the executive director told members in a recent letter. 

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) came under fire in recent weeks for likening parents to “domestic terrorists” in a letter to the White House requesting federal assistance to stop threats of violence as topics such as critical race theory and mask mandates have become heated. NSBA has since apologized for the language used in the letter. 

“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,” Melissa Randol, executive director of the MSBA, said. 

“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,” Randol said. “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.” 

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Missouri Republicans had pressured MSBA to address the national group’s letter — especially after Pennsylvania’s chapter withdrew from the organization. 

Earlier this month, Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden asked the MSBA to make clear its own position. 

“Missouri parents deserve to know who is fighting for them and fighting against them,” Rowden said in his letter. “And to be clear — violence is never acceptable. But to generically attempt to classify protests of any kind as ‘domestic terrorism’ is an overt attempt to take away the First Amendment rights of those who disagree with you. That is unacceptable and un-American.”

Sen. Mike Moon, who is running for Congress, said the MSBA’s decision to withdraw from the national organization “was the correct one.”

“The National School Boards Association requested U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to target parents, who protest at local school board meetings, as domestic terrorists. Taxpayers, including parents with children enrolled in government schools, have a say in the curriculum used to teach children,” Moon told The Missouri Times. “The actions by the current administration, as carried out by Mr. Garland, is simply a demonstration of tyranny.”

Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is running for U.S. Senate, has also been critical of the NSBA in the wake of the letter. On social media, he said: “Showing up to a public meeting to object to teaching our kids to despise our country or forced masking of Americans should be protected, not criminalized.” Schmitt has also launched a legal challenge to mask mandates in schools in Missouri. 

Further, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley has called on Attorney General Merrick Garland, who directed federal authorities to collaborate with local law enforcement on strategies to address threats, to resign. Garland is reportedly pleased with the NSBA apology letter, but Hawley alleged on social media he used the FBI “to intimidate parents without legal basis … premised on misinformation he didn’t bother to verify.” 

The MSBA said its withdrawal from the national group will not have an impact on its members’ programs and services. 

This story has been updated to include a statement from Sen. Mike Moon.