Kerri Schelling

Kerri Schelling, executive director of the Kentucky School Boards Association

A spate of chaotic school board meetings across the country – fueled by attendees’ opposition to K-12 masking requirements and controversy around critical race theory – has prompted the National School Boards Association to request federal law enforcement assistance with quelling disruptions.

It’s a call the Kentucky School Boards Association firmly opposes, the organization announced Monday in a statement.

“KSBA was not informed of or asked for any input into the creation of this letter. The NSBA position and request do not reflect the considered opinion of KSBA,” the group’s statement reads in part.

Speaking to the Daily News, KSBA Director of Communications Josh Shoulta said that, in speaking with other state-level school boards associations “We were all kind of caught off guard by this.”

Local school boards are best equipped to manage issues at local meetings, Shoulta said, calling the kind of federal involvement the NSBA advocated for an “overreach.”

In a letter dated Sept. 29 to President Joe Biden, NSBA leadership wrote that “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat.”

“The (NSBA) respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation,” the letter stated. “Local school board members want to hear from their communities on important issues and that must be at the forefront of good school board governance and promotion of free speech. However, there also must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders as they do their job.”

The NSBA’s letter went on to state that “Coupled with attacks against school board members and educators for approving policies for masks to protect the health and safety of students and school employees, many public school officials are also facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula,” the NSBA letter states.

To make its case, the NSBA cited disrupted school board meetings in California, Florida, Georgia and other states because of masking requirements.

“An individual was arrested in Illinois for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct during a school board meeting. During two separate school board meetings in Michigan, an individual yelled a Nazi salute in protest to masking requirements and another individual prompted the board to call a recess because of opposition to Critical Race Theory,” the NSBA letter stated.

Following the release of the letter, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memorandum committing the Justice Department to launch “a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.”

Kentucky has also seen its share of disruptions at school board meetings as tensions roil over criticisms of masking requirements and critical race theory. Just last month, for example, a Lawrenceburg man was arrested after he was accused of carrying a handgun into an Anderson County Board of Education meeting.

Speaking to the Daily News on Monday, Shoulta acknowledged the disorder that’s unfolded at local school board meetings across Kentucky but insisted that local school boards are best equipped at dealing with it themselves.

That said, “Not all disagreement equates to disorder,” Shoulta said. He went on to characterize the NSBA’s request as out of step with its partnership with its member school boards associations, saying the KSBA views it as an overreach.

With attendance at local school board meetings on the rise in recent months, Shoulta said it should be seen as an opportunity for local leaders to educate the public about how difficult decisions are made: “There is a silver lining to that.”

Going forward, the KSBA is reassessing the benefits of continued membership in the NSBA, according to its statement Monday.

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation, watching for much-needed corrective action from NSBA’s leadership and a renewed commitment to transparency,” the KSBA said.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.

Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.

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