The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, released the following statement today in response to increasingly tense public forums and online discussions related to safe school openings amid the enduring COVID-19 pandemic.
AASA and NSBA: “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact everyone, we are concerned with the increasing reports of our members—school superintendents and school board members—who are working to ensure a safe reopening of schools while addressing threats and violence, and being undermined by those who do not agree with their school guidelines for COVID-19 best practices. School leaders across the country are facing threats because they are simply trying to follow the health and scientific safety guidance issued by federal, state, and local health policy experts.”
Chip Slaven, interim executive director and CEO, NSBA: “School board members must be allowed to act in their students’ best interests, or we risk losing the progress we have made. School board members around the country are doing everything they can to keep our students in classrooms and protect them while they are there. They are consulting with health experts, studying state and local caseloads and vaccination rates, and talking to parent and community members about the safest way to have students back in school buildings. School board members are our neighbors. They attend our churches and shop at our grocery stores. They have children in the public education system and share the same concerns as the communities they represent. Doing what’s best for each child in their school district is at the heart of every decision a school board member makes. But for their hard work, school board members, superintendents, principals, teachers and others who work in service to our students are being subjected to online and in-person threats, abuse and harassment. This must stop.”
Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA: “The work of school superintendents and board members, whose job is to run and operate a school system, have faced countless new challenges throughout the last 20 months. Leading these schools during a global pandemic is an enormous task, one that is unnecessarily complicated when adult tempers flare. The work to open schools and the discussions at school board meetings are focused on a goal we all support: getting and keeping our kids safe in school. We oppose the increasingly aggressive tactics creeping into board and community meetings, and we cannot let frustrations and tensions evolve into name calling and intimidation. We will never back down from the importance of freedom of speech, but we cannot—and will not—tolerate aggression, intimidation, threats and violence toward superintendents, board members and educators.”
Viola M. Garcia, president of NSBA; trustee, Aldine Independent School District, Houston, Texas: “School board members are used to heated meetings and interactions around difficult decisions like hiring a superintendent, passing the budget, or school redistricting. Disagreements and heated opinions are ok. Shouting contests, harassment, abuse and threats—both online and in-person—are absolutely not. School board members want to hear from the communities they serve, especially during this critical moment in the pandemic. But community input must remain respectful and civil, even if it is in opposition.”
Paul Imhoff, 2021-22 president of AASA; superintendent, Upper Arlington Schools, Upper Arlington, Ohio: “The number-one priority for school superintendents and school board members is to keep students safely in school and engaged in in-person learning. Leadership requires tough decisions and uncomfortable conversations, and we are confident in the ability of superintendents and school boards to continue to work tirelessly to ensure we can keep students safely in school—learning, growing and thriving.”
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to equitable access for all students to the highest quality public education. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is a federation of state associations and the U.S. territory of the Virgin Islands that represent locally elected school board officials serving approximately 51 million public school students regardless of their disability, ethnicity, socio-economic status or citizenship. Working with and though our state association members, NSBA advocates for equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. We believe that public education is a civil right necessary to the dignity and freedom of the American people and that each child deserves equitable access to an education that maximizes their individual potential. For more information, visit nsba.org.