The National School Board Association’s recent letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland warning about “threats of violence and acts of intimidation” by parents distracts from the much larger problem of violence and crime in schools.
In its letter, the NSBA does not cite any data to support its push to have the U.S. Department of Justice use the PATRIOT Act, for example, to target parents.
Further, Senate Judiciary Committee members Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) exposed the anecdotal examples used by the NSBA to justify labeling parents as domestic terrorists as basic cases of parents “engaging in speech that is clearly protected by the First Amendment.”
While the NSBA failed to provide any data to support its contention that parents are violent domestic terrorists, there has been terror in the halls of public schools, not due to parents, but because of widespread crime, which federal data proves is real.
In 2017-18, the last year with available federal data, 962,300 violent incidents were recorded at public schools–a 100,000 increase over the prior school year. These violent incidents occurred at the vast majority of schools, with 71 percent of schools reporting violence.
Among the serious violent incidents were 8,200 rapes and sexual assaults, 10,500 physical attacks with a weapon, 26,700 physical threats without a weapon, and 9,000 robberies with and without a weapon.
All told, public schools recorded 1.4 million incidents of crime, which occurred on 80 percent of the nation’s campuses.
Also, while the NSBA may believe that protesting parents are bullying its members, it is hard to take its protestations seriously when the public schools have allowed bullying in schools to become an epidemic.
In 2019, USA Today reported that, according to federal data, “about 49 percent of children in grades four to 12 reported being bullied by other students at least once a month.”
While the pandemic school closures put school crime on sabbatical, the 2021 reopening of schools have come with new policies that virtually guarantee that school violence and crime will spike even higher.
For example, in the wake of the George Floyd killing, many school districts decided to remove school-based police. The results have been predictable.
In liberal Alexandria, Virginia, for instance, police at schools were removed last year by the city council. Criminal incidents rose dramatically.
A long-time Alexandria school board member said, “I have never heard of this many altercations in one month, let alone in a year’s time.”
In September, Alexandria parents rallied to bring back police. Parent Liz Fuller said, “parents are concerned about mounting violence in Alexandria’s schools” and cited “brutal fights” where school personnel “have gotten pushed down along with the students.”
“Our students are sending us warning shots. Literal warning shots,” said the principal of Alexandria City High School. “My staff, my students, we are not okay.”
Forced to face reality, the Alexandria city council recently voted to reinstate police in schools, at least temporarily.
One council member who switched his vote from anti-police-on-campus to supporting the return of the police said: “I think the one thing I’ve heard very loudly and clearly from, I’ll be honest with you, a whole host of parents, is that they want something done now.”
And that is the bottom line: parents should be able to make their views known to their elected representatives, even if they make them loudly.
Instead of chilling the speech of parents, as the NSBA’s actions will do, parent voices need to be heard on issues ranging from crime on campus to politicization of the classroom to parental control of their children’s education.
Senators Grassley and Graham rightly point out that the most basic and important right of every American is to be able to question government decisions and that includes asking “very tough questions and requesting changes to school policies.” If government criminalizes such speech we will no longer be a democracy.