IssuesTexas Association of School Boards Distances Itself From Call for Federal Crackdown on Local Meetings

The Justice Department recently devoted new attention to school board drama over masks and CRT, a trend the NSBA likened to terrorism.
October 26, 2021
In a letter to the Biden administration last month, a Texan-led national union of school trustees likened school board meeting drama over masks and “critical race theory” to domestic terrorism. In response, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would direct federal law enforcement to “address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.”

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has since apologized for the tone of the letter, and several state school board associations have distanced themselves from it, including the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB).

“TASB was not consulted nor involved in the development of the NSBA letter. Here at TASB we strongly believe in local governance. Our position has always been that school board meetings should be places where parents and community members are welcomed and provided the opportunity to openly share their opinions and concerns on how the schools in their community are being governed,” the organization stated.

“It’s natural that community members across a state as large and diverse as Texas are going to have different opinions on important K-12 issues. We think this diversity of opinion — and the ability to express it openly — makes us strong.”

The original NSBA letter asked for the Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, and FBI to intervene, citing chaotic school board meetings from Nashville to Fort Worth as well as “threatening letters and cyberbullying attacks.”

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“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 reads.

“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.”

Strictly speaking, critical race theory is an academic discourse that studies race and racism as powerful social institutions rather than individual acts or beliefs. Like the terms “Marxist” or “stoic,” the term “critical race theory” has also broadened in the popular understanding to encompass values influenced by the narrower original meaning — “anti-racism” or “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” for example. Deep skepticism of meritocratic or impartial standards is a widely accepted critical race concept, one that commonly informs business hiring practices, university admissions, and pedagogy.

Suspicion of anti-racism in Texas pedagogy prompted the Texas legislature to pass a bill meant to stop “inculcation” of racially preferent ideals in the classroom. After the first version of this bill was passed, TASB released a statement distinguishing equity initiatives from critical race theory. However, TASB also holds racial training seminars for attendees as part of required training for school board members.

The group’s stance on mask mandates is much clearer. TASB considers Governor Greg Abbott’s prohibition against school mask mandates to be an unlawful exercise of his authority.

Some GOP lawmakers in Texas have called for TASB to leave the NSBA.

The NSBA is led by Viola Garcia, former TASB president and longtime trustee at Aldine Independent School District in Houston. In early October, she also began serving on a board to oversee the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a test administered to students across the country to measure learning trends.


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.