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North Dakota School Board Association withdraws from national organization over Biden letter

The move was taken, according to the NDSBA, in the wake of a letter the national association sent in September to President Joe Biden advocating for federal intervention in confrontations that were occurring at school board meetings around the country.

Fargo School Board 2-21-2020
The Fargo School Board, seen here in February 2021, is a member of the North Dakota School Board Association, which has voted to not renew its membership in the National School Board Association.
File photo
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FARGO — The North Dakota School Board Association has decided to withdraw from the National School Board Association in the wake of a controversial letter the national group issued late last year.

The North Dakota School Board Association alerted its membership to the change in a letter of its own that was recently sent to school board members, superintendents and school business managers.

The move was taken, according to the North Dakota association, after the national association sent a letter in September to President Joe Biden advocating for federal intervention in confrontations that were occurring at school board meetings around the country.

In the letter, the national organization said the confrontations "could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes."

Since that time, the North Dakota School Board Association has been making it clear it was not involved in the decision to send the letter to Biden. At its annual planning and budgeting meeting on June 17, the North Dakota School board Association's board of directors voted to not renew the association's membership in the National School Board Association.

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The letter the North Dakota organization sent to its members states that while it commends the national association for steps it took to clarify how the letter to Biden came about, "it has become clear to us the long-term viability of the NSBA is in question."

The North Dakota association's letter to its members contains a link to information regarding the outcome of an internal investigation the national association commissioned in January to determine the origins of what the state association describes as the "ill-advised" letter that was sent to Biden.

According to the findings of the internal review, the September 2021 letter was “principally directed, reviewed, and approved by” Chip Slaven, the National School Board Association’s former interim director and CEO, who was responsible for both the “origin and substance of the letter," according to the review.

The review also found that while there were indications of collaboration between Slaven and the White House, no direct or indirect evidence was found that suggested the Biden administration requested the letter.

Nonetheless, the letter to the Biden administration "directly contradicts our core commitments to parent engagement, local control, and nonpartisanship,” said John Heim, the national association's executive director and CEO.

In the letter the North Dakota organization sent to its members, executive director Alexis Baxley stated: "We will continue to work with our partner state associations and our federal delegation to protect the strong system of local control we have developed in North Dakota and make sure the voice of locally elected school board members in North Dakota continues to be heard at the federal level."

Rebecca Knutson, president of the Fargo School Board, said the board received information about the North Dakota association's decision on Monday, June 20.

"At this point, the board has not discussed the implications of the decision," Knutson said.

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"I do expect the board will have those discussions in the near future. Chapters from some other states have made the same decision," Knutson added.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

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