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Showdowns over masks, vaccines and how race is taught in schools have many school board members across the United States worried about their safety.
Crowds shout obscenities and throw objects. In one district, a protester waved a flag pole against a school board official. Other cases have included a protester shouting a Nazi salute, arrests for aggravated bodily harm and disorderly conduct, and numerous death threats against officials.
School board meetings, usually one of the most mundane examples of local democracy in action, have gone viral across the country in recent months, and school leaders are scared.
That’s according to a letter the National School Boards Association sent to President Biden this week. They are seeking help from federal law enforcement, including the US Departments of Justice, Education and Homeland Security as well as the FBI, saying, “These heinous actions could be the equivalent of a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.
The letter cites incidents that disrupted school board meetings in California, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
The association mentioned a chaotic school board meeting in Loudon County, Va., In which one person was arrested and another was injured. A local TV reporter posted a video of part of it:
In Ohio, a school board member reportedly received a hate mail saying, “We’re coming after you and all the members of the … BoE [Board of Education]… You make them wear a mask – for no reason in this world other than control. And for that, you will pay dearly. The threats prompted school board members, many of whom are volunteers, to resign.
Increasingly, these protests are coordinated by national groups such as Let Them Breathe. Turning Point USA, a group closely linked to former President Trump, operates a website called the School Board Watchlist, which includes the names and photographs of members of school boards across the country who have adopted mask mandates or anti-racist programs. The group maintains a similar website targeting professors for liberal opinions which has been linked to several incidents of harassment.
Most of the school board protests were about mask warrants. There have also been disruptions around vaccines, policies towards LGBTQ students, and the way race and history are taught in schools, which right-wing activists have misleadingly called “critical race theory. “. Critical Race Theory, as this letter points out, is an advanced subject taught in law schools and undergraduate sociology courses.