With many of its members facing verbal abuse and threats of violence due to mask mandates and other COVID-19 related policies, the National School Boards Association asked President Biden on Thursday for federal help investigating the harassment.
The organization represents more than 90,000 school board members in 14,000 school districts across the United States, some of whom have said because of the vitriol, they are either resigning or won't seek re-election. Dozens of members have reported being harassed or assaulted, with an Illinois man allegedly hitting one official at a board meeting in September and an Ohio school board member receiving a letter saying he would "pay dearly" for being a "filthy traitor" upholding a mask mandate.
"Whatever you feel about masks, it should not reach this level of rhetoric," Chip Slaven, executive director of the National School Boards Association, told The Associated Press.
The group is asking the FBI, Justice Department, Homeland Security, and the Secret Service to assist with monitoring threat levels against students, staff, board members, and school sites, while also investigating any threats that violate federal laws. "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," the association wrote in its letter requesting help.
In response, White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday called threats against school board members "horrible," and said while local law enforcement primarily handles safety concerns, Biden is "continuing to explore if more can be done from across the administration."