School board group backtracks on letter for security help from DOJ Presented by Sallie Mae® NSBA WALKS IT BACK: The National School Boards Association has apologized for a letter that called on President Joe Biden to use the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, its National Threat Assessment Center and other federal agencies to stop “threats and acts of violence” on school officials during school board meetings. — About a month after the association sent its initial plea letter to the Biden administration, the NSBA has faced outrage on all sides — from its members, state attorneys general, lawmakers and parent advocacy groups. These critics say the involvement of the FBI in school board meetings would chill parents’ free speech. “The NSBA seems more concerned about suppressing speech with which it disagrees than real threats of violence,” more than a dozen attorneys general wrote. — Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, a group “working to reclaim our schools from activists imposing harmful agendas,” said her group has emailed 47 state school board associations for comment on the NSBA’s Sept. 29 letter. Neily said 19 have distanced themselves from the group’s letter, and many state school boards said they had not been made aware of the NSBA’s request ahead of time. — “On behalf of NSBA, we regret and apologize for the letter,” a memo from NSBA’s board to its members said. “There was no justification for some of the language included in the letter. We should have had a better process in place to allow for consultation on a communication of this significance. We apologize also for the strain and stress this situation has caused you and your organizations.” — “A $19 million trade association has nothing on a bunch of mad moms,” Neily said in a statement in response to the apology. More than 7,500 people have also sent letters directly to the Justice Department, she told POLITICO, in order to say that “parents are not domestic terrorists.” IT'S MONDAY, OCT. 25. WELCOME TO WEEKLY EDUCATION. HAVE WE MET YET? Let’s grab coffee. Ping me at [email protected] to chat. Send tips to my colleagues Jessica Calefati at [email protected], Juan Perez Jr. at [email protected] and Michael Stratford at [email protected]. And follow us on Twitter: @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro. A message from Sallie Mae®: Students shouldn’t pay more for college than they have to, but more and more families are leaving money on the table each year. Nearly a third of students skipped the Free Application from Federal Student Aid or FAFSA® last year, and the form’s complexity is a big reason why. To help students maximize federal financial aid, which is important to do before considering other options, including private student loans, Sallie Mae launched a free suite of financial education tools and planning resources, including a FAFSA support tool that can help families complete the form in minutes. See how Sallie Mae makes sense of the FAFSA. Department of Justice Merrick Garland | AP Photo/Patrick Semansky GARLAND TO TESTIFY WEDNESDAY BEFORE THE SENATE: Attorney General Merrick Garland defended the Justice Department’s planned response to threats of violence against school board members and educators during the House Judiciary committee hearing last week. He’s expected to testify on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and his memo is likely to come up. — Garland told the House Judiciary Committee last week that there is nothing in his memo that suggests FBI agents will be attending school board meetings. “I do not believe that parents who testify, speak, argue with, [or] complain about school boards and schools should be classified as domestic terrorists or any kind of criminals,” he said. — The Justice Department was also expected to unveil a series of additional measures to “address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel,” as Garland wrote. In the memo, dated Oct. 4, he also directed the FBI to set up meetings with local leaders and “open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting assessment, and response” within 30 days. Garland told lawmakers last week that he didn’t know how many of those meetings had already occurred, but that he expected them to continue taking place. —“People are scared,” Neily said. “They’re like, are we going to be investigated? Do we need to worry? What happens if the FBI comes for us?” “Part of the problem is, … how do you define threats and harassment?” she added. “If a school board member says, ‘You booed me, that's harassing, I'm calling the cops,’ … that's different from a legal standard. I still think people are really worried because even if they go and engage in the process in good faith, they can still be accused of being a malign actor.” — The group, through public records requests, also found that the board of the NSBA was not consulted before their letter was sent. An email sent by Chip Slaven, NSBA’s interim . . . read the full article here.