On Monday, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) met with U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to discuss the strategies in navigating the post-COVID pandemic situation. The meeting comes after the group appealed to the Biden administration to "ban hostile parents and individuals from school grounds who threaten" their safety.
The controversial request that was met with backlash from parents and concerned citizens was made through a letter sent in September 2021, a time when school board meetings were the venue for contentious arguments between school administrators and frustrated parents who protest COVID policies in schools. Fox News reported that school officials were complaining that they were facing threats for "simply trying to follow the health and scientific safety guidance that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health departments are issuing."
NASSP called upon federal officials "to protect school leaders from rampant hostility and violence that disrupts our schools and threatens the safety of our educations and students." The National School Boards Association (NSBA) also asked the Biden administration for assistance in dealing with the backlash from parents. By October, the U.S. Department of Justice launched an effort to address what they believed was an "increase" in "threats of violence" against school officials and teachers across America.
Attorney General Merrick Garland warned in a statement that, "Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values." He added that educators should be able to carry out their duties "without fear for their safety." NASSP lauded the efforts of the DOJ to protect educators.
But Garland was at the center of controversy when he was falsely accused of labeling concerned parents as "domestic terrorist." FactCheck.org clarified that it was not Garland who alluded to parents as "domestic terrorists," but instead the term was drawn from the NSBA letter dated September 29, 2021, which read, "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."
NASSP board member Bill Ziegler said in a statement that it was "alarming" that educators and school staff were facing "personal and professional threats for just doing your job." He underscored that the safety of all staff and students are of "utmost importance" and that schools must be "conducive to teaching, learning and collaboration."
"I welcome the federal help to counter threats that individuals are making against our schools that are disrupting learning and potentially harming dedicated educators," Ziegler stressed.
The NASSP meeting with Cardona and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten on Monday launched the Trailblazing Leadership Week in Washington, D.C. at the U.S Department of Education.
Other topics discussed during the event was how principals are addressing students' academic needs, as well as the social-emotional needs of both students and staff, a Department of Education statement said. Moreover, they discussed how funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) were used in recovery efforts.