Menk urges Coweta school board to quit GSBA after letter to Biden
A member of the Coweta County Board of Education is demanding that the board sever ties with its state support organization following an inflammatory letter to President Joe Biden of the National School Boards Association.
In a memorandum presented to the Coweta council meeting on Tuesday, District 4 representative Linda Menk, who has long protested her affiliation with the Georgia School Boards Association, said the council should “reject all support, participation and any cooperation with all organizations whose funding supports the NSBA.
The NSBA is funded in part by dues from state-level associations, including the Georgia School Boards Association. All 180 school districts in Georgia are members of GSBA, a non-profit organization that provides services such as board training, legal assistance, risk assessment, strategic planning, and board management software. .
A September 29 letter from the NSBA to Biden further infuriated parents across the country – many of whom have started attending school board meetings to express outrage over burning issues like mask warrants, rights of transgender students and how or if their schools should teach students about the history of slavery and racism in the United States
Unruly crowds disrupted some meetings, and other meetings and demonstrations degenerated into threats of violence and, in a few cases, outright brawls. The letter from the NSBA, signed by President Viola Garcia and Acting Executive Director / CEO Chip Slaven, called on the Biden administration to launch an investigation into the “growing number of threats of violence and intimidation. producing across the country â.
In addition to what the NSBA classified as attacks on school board members and educators for “coronavirus recovery operations,” the letter noted that many public school officials were facing physical threats “due to propaganda claiming the false inclusion of critical race theory in classroom education and curriculaâ¦ despite the fact that critical race theory is not taught in public schools.
Critical Race Theory is not a history class or diversity / inclusion training, legal experts say. Instead, CRT is “a practice of questioning the role of race and racism in society that emerged in law academy and spread to other areas of scholarship,” according to the American Bar Association – a complicated subject that the NSBA recognizes is not suitable for students being educated in the school districts it represents.
â(CRT) remains a complex law school and graduate subject far beyond the scope of a K-12 class,â the NSBA letter said.
The NSBA letter was immediately branded on social media by political conservatives as an effort by the Biden administration to strip parents of their First Amendment rights and label them “national terrorists” for having denounced policies that affect their children.
Chris Rufo, a conservative political strategist and outspoken opponent of the CRT, told The Associated Press that the Biden administration “uses the FBI to clamp down on parents and criminalize dissent.” Rufo’s critical tweets helped spark the social media storm that sent several speakers to the podium on Tuesday at the Coweta County Board of Education meeting to berate local council members and applaud the proposal of Menk to break with the GSBA.
In his memorandum, Menk also called for the immediate resignation of his fellow board members from all positions they hold in the state or national organization. Only one, Amy Dees, representative of District 1, currently holds a position with either. Dees, who sits on the GSBA board of directors, said she would not be stepping down from the association, which she said encourages parents to get involved in their children’s education.
âI have no intention of resigning my post at the GSBA,â Dees said in an emailed statement to the Newnan Times-Herald on Thursday. The Georgia School Boards Association has always been a strong supporter of parent involvement in education. They remain committed to ensuring excellence in good governance. GSBA believes that the family is the most important influence in the development of a person. ”
On October 5, the GSBA issued a statement distancing itself from the actions of the NSBA by asking for help from the Biden administration, saying the state association had not been consulted or informed of the dispatch of the letter and that the decision “is not the first disagreement that the GSBA has had with the national association and is unlikely to be the last.
The organization recognized that the âdifficultâ decisions of school boards on behalf of their students are not always popular, but that elected officials and leaders closest to the community are best equipped to make these decisions, in partnership with the parents.
“The GSBA supports the constitutional authority of local councils to manage and control public schools in this state,” the statement said. “(We)â¦ also strongly support the principle that parents are a vital part of the education process.”
And in the event of a conflict requiring intervention, school leaders will continue to call on local law enforcement, not turn to federal agents or officials, the statement said. But the GSBA also cautioned against going too far with grievances.
“There is no justification for the physical or verbal threats directed at (school board members), their staff and certainly not the students,” the statement said. âThere is also no justification for disrupting a public meeting. ”
In Menk’s memorandum, she expressed her disdain for the GSBA’s response.
“The GSBA’s October 5, 2021 response is weak, unacceptable and meaningless as the GSBA cooperates and supports the NSBA through funding and participation by incorporating their goals through training of school board members,” said writes Menk.
She also asked the council to seek external sources for the state-mandated nine minimum hours of annual training – typically delivered through the GSBA – needed to maintain accreditation in the Coweta County school system.
Superintendent Evan Horton agreed to seek other sources of training, but said he confirmed to GSBA Executive Director Valarie Wilson that the association does not currently provide funds to the NSBA.
âBecause he strongly disagreed with the NSBA on (the letter to Biden) and other matters, the GSBA withheld his dues for the year to the National School Boards Association,â Horton said.
Board chairwoman Beth Barnett said the public comment portion of Coweta’s board meetings has remained within the bounds of civility and relevance, for the most part.
“Although we have seen an increase in the number of speakers at our meetings, like virtually every school board in our country, the vast majority of people who speak to us follow (our) rules, and we appreciate their comments and contributions.” , she said. noted. “While this can be emotional and does not always specifically involve our schools, these are issues that concern our parents.”
She said the NSBA letter had little relevance in Coweta County.
âOur school board has nothing to do with this particular matter,â Barnett said. âAs far as I know, our local school board meetings did not involve any threat of violence. ”
(See the NSBA letter to President Biden here.)