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Rowden asks MSBA if parents who protest mask mandates, critical race theory should be labeled ‘domestic terrorists’ 

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden implored the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA) to clarify its position on a national push to respond to conflicts over COVID-19 mandates and critical race theory in schools. 

Last week, the National School Boards Association asked President Joe Biden for federal assistance to stop threats of violence against school officials, staff, and teachers over mask mandates and critical race theory. The group sought to designate those initiating crimes or acts of violence against schools as “domestic terrorists.” 

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday directed federal authorities to collaborate with local law enforcement on strategy sessions to address the threats, promising cooperation between the FBI and local authorities. 

But Rowden’s query, sent Tuesday, pointed to parents who protested or asked questions about the practices. Rowden asked the MSBA if it agreed with the labeling of “concerned Missouri parents” as domestic terrorists, saying the national organization sought to institute similar measures to the fallout of the 9/11 terror attacks. 

“Missouri parents deserve to know who is fighting for them and fighting against them,” the Republican senator said. “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.”

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt also spoke against the move on social media, saying “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.”

Fellow Republican Sen. Mike Moon said those attending school board meetings should “buckle down and keep at it.”

NSBA President Viola Garcia contended in her letter to the president that threats of violence impaired schools’ ability to provide education and other services for students. 

“These threats or actual acts of violence against our school districts are impacting the delivery of educational services to students and families, as many districts receive federal funds and subsidies for services to millions of students with disabilities, health screenings and supplemental supports for disadvantaged students, child nutrition, broadband connectivity, educator development, school safety activities, career and technical education, and more,” Garcia wrote. 

Garcia’s letter pointed to conflicts arising at school board meetings and threats leveled in several states, though Missouri was not among them. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration would “explore what more can be done.”

Critical race theory and school mask mandates have been points of contention in Missouri; Schmitt filed a lawsuit to prevent schools from enforcing mask ordinances, and lawmakers are investigating the use of critical race theory in Missouri schools, though the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reported Kansas City Public Schools was the only district to teach it

Gov. Mike Parson has weighed in on both issues as well, saying critical race theory has “no business being taught in Missouri classrooms” and approving elected officials to step in on school mask mandates.