Wednesday, October 6, 2021- Late last week the National School Boards Association (NSBA) issued a letter to President Joe Biden requesting, “Federal Assistance to Stop Threats and Acts of Violence Against Public School Children, Public School Board Members, and Other Public School District Officials and Educators.” The letter was accompanied by a press release and has been the subject of comment in the press and on social media.
NSBA is a national association composed of the state school boards associations from each of the states in the country. While the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) is currently a member of NSBA, it was not consulted about this letter, did not provide information to NSBA, and was not informed that the letter was being sent. The decision by NSBA to write this letter is not the first disagreement that VSBA has had with its national association and probably will not be the last, but it is important that our members and the citizens of this state know where VSBA stands.
VSBA is aware that local school board members are under an increased level of scrutiny and pressure involving several issues and that holding this elected/appointed position has required school board members and their school administrators to make difficult decisions on behalf of students. Given the nature of the issues, it is not possible to make decisions which all community members will agree, and that disagreement has been expressed in public meetings and on social media. These decisions are not always popular and are almost guaranteed to be unpopular to some portion of the community. VSBA was founded on and continues to support the constitutional authority of local boards to manage and control the public schools of this state. Elected officials and appointed leadership who are closest to the community are best suited to make those decisions.
VSBA and its 132 local school division members recognize the vital role parents play in the education of their children and within the school community. Local boards in Virginia work very hard to listen to parents and other members of the community and to work as a collaborative team for the safety and achievement of all students. We must all work together to ensure a safe and nurturing learning environment for students.
Those citizens who serve on Virginia’s local school boards deserve our thanks. There is no justification for physical or verbal threats directed against them, their staff and certainly not the students. Nor is there any excuse for disrupting a public meeting. When such unfortunate events occur, the local officials, working with local law enforcement, must deal with the situation appropriately. While we look for support to our state and federal governments, we do not seek the involvement of federal law enforcement or other officials in local decisions.
We at VSBA appreciate the work of school board members and superintendents and we exist to support that work. We realize the past year and half has been more challenging than ever before. Thanks for all that you do.
Janet Turner-Giles, President Gina G. Patterson, Executive Director
Virginia School Boards Association Virginia School Boards Association