NSBA drops report on letter labeling parents as domestic terror threats

President Joe Biden is introduced by Attorney General Merrick Garland during an event in the East Room of the White House, Monday, May 16, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

RALEIGH — The National School Boards Association (NSBA) released a report detailing the lengthy backstory behind a letter the organization sent last fall to President Joe Biden which labeled parents protesting at school board meetings as domestic terror threats. 

The NSBA’s letter was the basis for a memorandum issued by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland that directed the FBI to investigate protests at school board meetings. In recent weeks, it has come to light through whistleblower accounts that the FBI has been actively applying its counterterrorism matrix to parents across the country, including use of what House Judiciary Republicans called a “snitch hotline.” 

The NSBA report, which is 57 pages long, is accompanied by a 551-page list of exhibits 

It is unclear why the NSBA compiled the report, which appears to implicate involvement by the White House and Garland. Specifically, the report reveals heavy involvement in the drafting of the letter by White House Senior Adviser Mary Wall and advance knowledge of the contents of the letter by Garland’s Department of Justice. 

“Although the letter was the progeny of Mr. Slaven with active assistance from his staff and some of his NSBA colleagues, the White House, namely White House Senior Advisor to the President Mary C. Wall (“Ms. Wall”), had advance knowledge of the planned Letter and its specific contents and interacted with Mr. Slaven regarding the Letter during its drafting,” the report reads. “In addition, evidence indicates that White House officials discussed the existence of the Letter, its requests, and the contents of the Letter with Department of Justice officials more than a week before the Letter was finalized and sent to President Biden.” 

Additionally, Biden personally called NSBA Board of Directors President Viola Garcia after the letter was public knowledge.  

“According to Dr. Garcia, President Biden was “appreciative” of and thanked her for the Letter in a fifteen-minute one-on-one phone call,” the report states. “President Biden also extended an invitation to Dr. Garcia to visit the Oval Office, however the visit never occurred. The next day, Ms. Wall and Mr. Slaven discussed, via email, how Dr. Garcia was “thrilled” and had a “wonderful conversation with the President.”  

The same passage of the report relating Garcia’s call with Biden also notes that “On October 7, Ms. Wall emailed Mr. Slaven: “we have your back, and we’re exploring every avenue we can.” Dr. Garcia confided to Counsel that despite her excitement from President Biden’s support, she was reluctant to discuss the call because of the perception that the NSBA was ‘in cahoots essentially with the Biden Administration on this Letter’.” 

On Oct. 13, 2021, Cardona announced the appointment of Garcia to the national board which oversees the Nation’s Report Card, commonly referred to by the acronym NAEP. The NAEP board oversees national testing and assessments of all K-12 public school students and is considered a prestigious appointment. Former North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue was also re-appointed to the same board by Cardona. 

Some of the exhibits include previous drafts of the letter and reveals that the letter’s author, NSBA’s former Chief Advocacy Officer Chip Slaven, had edited out a request asking for Biden to deploy the National Guard. The text of that edit (below) can be found on page 159 of the exhibits: 

 “Further, in egregious circumstances and via coordination with local and state authorities, we ask that the Army National Guard and its Military Police be deployed to certain school districts and related events where students and school personnel have been subjected to acts and threats of violence.” 

Page 65 of the exhibits includes a FAQ that denies the letter called parents terrorists, yet Slaven clearly did so by invoking the PATRIOT Act in the letter to Biden. 

The exhibit documents also make clear that Slaven had been actively conducting interviews with media outlets regarding the letter to Biden. Exhibit 8 includes “talking points” given to Slaven for a Politico interview and another outlet that mentions “the role of political operatives” and “threats.” Jason Amos, the NSBA’s communications director, apparently wrote those talking points. 

Also of note in the exhibits document is a single mention of Sheila Nix, the current chief of staff to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. The mention of Nix is found in a July 1 email related to soliciting feedback from the NSBA on a “Return to School Roadmap.” 

Prior to joining the U.S. Department of Education in January of 2021, Nix was the president of Tusk Philanthropies, an organization which focuses on mobile voting apps and hunger related issues. 

An investigation this year by North State Journal uncovered that in 2019 Tusk Philanthropies offered a grant via a third party vendor to North Carolina elections officials for creation of an absentee ballot portal. 

Nix was chief of staff to Jill Biden when Joe Biden was vice president and previously served as a Deputy Assistant to President Obama. Nix is married to James (Jim) Coughlan, a partner at the Perkins Coie legal firm which has been the subject of national headlines as a result of Special Council John Durham’s ongoing investigation into the 2020 election and Russia-gate hoax.