A senior National School Boards Association executive was aware of Attorney General Merrick Garland’s notorious schools memo before it was released, according to an email released Monday.
Parents Defending Education (PDE) released an internal email from NSBA board member Pam Doyle in which she told another board member that then-acting executive director Chip Slaven had been told in advance of the October 4 directive.
“I understand that Chip was aware of the US AG guidelines before they were released,” Ms. Doyle said in an Oct. 5 email to Beverly Slough. “So much for the communication with the CA [board of directors].”
The email stoked concerns about possible coordination between the NSBA and the Biden administration over the Sept. 29 letter raising the specter of domestic terrorism at raucous school board meetings, and the Justice Department’s response .
The memo ordered the FBI to get involved, prompting Republicans to accuse Mr Garland of arming the DOJ against parents upset over issues including critical race theory and mask mandates.
The NSBA Board of Directors disavowed the letter signed by Mr. Slaven and NSBA President Viola M. Garcia, which prompted 19 state chapters to take action to withdraw their membership, participation or dues , according to PDE.
Even so, Mr Garland did not rescind the memo, saying it was aimed at countering “violence or threats of violence”, not to chill school policy debate.
Previously released internal NSBA emails obtained by Parents Defending Education through open records requests include one in which Mr. Slaven says he was in contact with White House staff before sending the letter.
In another email, an NSBA official recalled that Mr. Slaven had said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona had solicited the letter, which his office denied.
Mr. Slaven is “no longer affiliated with the NSBA”, according to the organization. Ms. Garcia’s term as president runs until April.
John Heim, the association’s newly hired executive director and CEO, said the NSBA was launching “a full independent review of the circumstances surrounding the September 2021 letter.”
“The sentiments shared in the letter do not represent the opinions or position of the NSBA towards parents and directly contradict our fundamental commitment to parent engagement – we have sent the wrong message and apologized,” said Ms. Heim in a statement.
The review announced on February 4 will be conducted by Philip Kiko, former administrative director of the House of Representatives, and the law firm Michael Best & Friedrich.
“The review will seek to answer as many questions as possible, and the NSBA will share the findings with its members and the Hill as quickly as possible,” Heim said. “We take this matter seriously and will continue to take appropriate action.”