The Wisconsin Association of School Boards on Thursday condemned a growing number of threats against school board members across the state related to COVID-19 regulations and other hot-button political issues.
“Unfortunately, there have been some isolated incidents in the state recently involving threats to the personal safety of board members,” the association said in a statement. “Such threats cannot and should not be tolerated.”
At the beginning of October, Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to meet in the next 30 days with federal, state, tribal, territorial and local law enforcement leaders across the country to discuss strategies for addressing a “disturbing trend” of increasing threats to teachers and school board members.
“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” Garland wrote. “Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety.”
Discussion of COVID-19 mitigation protocols, such as mask mandates in the Beaver Dam and Oshkosh school districts, prompted a number of threats against school board members in Wisconsin. Members of the public also threatened the Waukesha School Board after they voted unanimously to opt out of a federal program that offered free meals to all students, in order to reinstate a free and reduced meal plan for economically disadvantaged students.
The threats prompted the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to issue its statement Thursday with suggestions on how members of the public should address local board members.
“To help board members hear and understand the message you want to deliver, be clear and respectful in your communications. You can be passionate about the issue, but maintaining a civil, constructive dialogue leads to more informed decision making,” the association said. “Recognize that boards frequently face difficult choices. The matters at hand can be complex with no easy answers in sight. But school board members share your goal — a successful public education system that helps all students excel.”