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Louisiana flag waving in the wind.

(The Center Square) – The Louisiana School Board Association has disavowed its national organization’s request for federal law enforcement to police local school board meetings, saying the move is a “huge step backwards.”

Parents and school boards across the country have clashed in recent months over COVID-19 student-mask policies and sensitive racial curriculum proposals, such as critical race theory. Traditional orderly meetings have sometimes devolved into shouting and raucous parent protests as a result.

In response, the National School Board Association, based in Alexandria, Virginia, implored federal law enforcement to intervene, writing in a letter to President Joe Biden that “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland promptly released a memo ordering the FBI and U.S. attorneys’ offices to investigate “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school administrators.”

The Louisiana School Board Association, however, does not support the initiative.

“The LSBA was not consulted about the content of the letter. The LSBA does not agree with NSBA’s action,” the group said in a statement. “Our concern is that NSBA’s request and description of events is not a universal occurrence at all school boards, it fails to align with the standards of good governance, and it discourages active participation in the governance process.”

“The NSBA’s request represents a huge step backwards in the collective advocacy efforts carried out by LSBA and other state associations in protecting and preserving openness, transparency and local autonomy,” the Baton Rouge-based association added.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said he would challenge any federal efforts to intimidate parents either at school board meetings or during school board elections.

“Parents have a right to have their voice heard in front of elected officials, including their elected school board members,” Landry said. “If a parent's free speech rights are being infringed, especially by the Attorney General of the United States, I will stand up and fight back to protect them.”

LSBA is encouraging the state’s school board members to contact local law enforcement if they receive a violent threat or feel their personal safety is at risk.

“Such threats should always be taken seriously and reported to the appropriate authority,” the group said.

The association’s overarching message, however, was for board members to remain open to parent feedback.

“Local school boards should encourage and make every effort to enhance public participation and engagement during school board meetings. There are times when discourse may be challenging to navigate but open discourse is a necessary course to chart in public service,” the statement read.

LSBA also said it’s evaluating its affiliation with NSBA and has not yet paid membership dues for the 2021-22 school year.

“The LSBA team will meet with its Board of Directors to determine how to best address this situation and reevaluate the benefits of continued membership in the NSBA,” the group said.

Staff Reporter

William Patrick is a regional reporter for The Center Square currently covering Louisiana. He previously covered the Florida Legislature and has a background in investigative journalism. William’s work has been widely published over his 10-year career.