Former NSBA director was aware of Garland memo targeting parents prior to its release

Email shows former NSBA interim director didn’t tell state chapter members 

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, in advance of the one year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Justice Department employees watch remotely on screens. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)

RALEIGH — A newly uncovered email raises more questions between the NSBA and the Biden administration’s coordination to surveil parents protesting their local school boards.

A new email obtained by Parents Defending Education reveal that the National School Boards Association was aware of U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s memorandum directing the FBI to investigate parents protesting local school boards prior to its publication.

“The American people deserve the truth about this issue immediately,” Nicole Neilly, President of Parents Defending Education told Fox News.

“It is appalling that the Department of Justice and Education Department have continued to stonewall on this scandal, ignoring pleas not only from the very people they are supposed to represent but also from the elected officials to whom they report,” said Neilly. “It’s little wonder that trust in government is at a historic low point.”

According to the email between former National School Boards Association (NSBA) board members Pam Doyle and Beverly Slough dated Oct. 5, 2021, Doyle asserts that the NSBA’s former interim director Chip Slaven “knew about the U.S. AG directives before they were published. … So much for communicating with the BOD.”

The state chapters represented by Doyle (Alabama) and Slough (Florida) have both withdrawn membership with the NSBA. As of late December 2021, 28 state chapters had distanced themselves from the NSBA, with 19 of those states dropping their membership, including North Carolina.

When Garland’s memorandum was announced, Slaven applauded the “swift” action by the DOJ, releasing a statement that said it sent a “strong message to individuals with violent intent who are focused on causing chaos, disrupting our public schools, and driving wedges between school boards and the parents, students, and communities they serve.”

The NSBA’s letter to President Biden was dated Sept. 29, 2021, which allegedly prompted Garland to issue his memorandum just five days later on Oct. 4, 2021. The NSBA letter suggested treating parent protests at school boards like “domestic terrorism” through application of the Patriot Act.

Parents Defending Education uncovered emails and a memorandum demonstrating the Biden White House was in contact with the NSBA for “several weeks” prior to the NSBA letter being made public.

After intense backlash, the NSBA withdrew its letter to Biden, which then disappeared from the NSBA website.

By mid-October of 2021, House Republicans, including Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop (NC-09), issued a letter demanding answers from Garland.  That same month, the NSBA issued an apology to its members.

Last November, documents provided to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee by a whistleblower showed the FBI employing counterterrorism measures with regard to school boards around the country using a threat tag dubbed “EDUOFFICIALS.”

Biden’s Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was also apparently involved, with emails indicating he had solicited the letter from the NSBA.

According to related emails obtained and published by Parents Defending Education, in early October 2021 NSBA Secretary-Treasurer Kristi Swett told member Marnie Maldonado that Slaven “told the officers he was writing a letter to provide information to the White House, from a request by Secretary Cardona.”

North Carolina U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, along with two dozen other Republican senators led by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), sent a letter to Cardona on Jan. 13, 2022, asking him to “explain your role, or your staff’s role, in the creation of this letter.”

It is unclear if Cardona has yet responded to the senators’ letter. Both a spokesperson for Biden’s Department of Education and Cardona have denied he asked for the letter.

On Feb. 17, U.S. House Judiciary Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Mike Johnson (R-LA), and Andy Biggs (R-AZ) sent a letter to Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen about the Department of Justice’s newly formed domestic terrorism office, raising concerns it will be used to target parents protesting their school boards. The letter requests documents related to the new office, but also demands an answer about why the office was created against the advice of career officials at the DOJ.

The week prior, Jordan and 17 members of the House Judiciary Committee had sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray informing him his agency has not sufficiently answered the committee’s questions surrounding Garland’s investigation into parents and accusing the FBI of stonewalling.

“We received the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s half-page response to our serious concerns about the FBI’s use of counterterrorism resources — as evidenced by documents provided to us by a whistleblower — to target concerned parents at local school board meetings,” the letter from House Judiciary Republicans reads. “Your response declined to answer in detail any questions we posed or to provide any documents we sought.”

The House Judiciary letter followed testimony given to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 8 by Olsen and Jill Sanborn, executive assistant director of the FBI’s national security branch.  Both Olsen and Sanborn appeared to distance themselves from the Garland memorandum, with Olsen downplaying his department’s role in the matter. It was during testimony at the Senate Judiciary hearing that Olsen announced the creation of a new “domestic terrorism unit.”

About A.P. Dillon 651 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_