The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, released the following statement on Sept. 22 in response to increasingly tense public forums and online discussions related to safe school openings amid the enduring COVID-19 pandemic.

The joint statement from NSBA and AASA is as follows: “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact everyone, we are concerned with the increasing reports of our members—school superintendents and school board members—who are working to ensure a safe reopening of schools while addressing threats and violence, and being undermined by those who do not agree with their school guidelines for COVID-19 best practices. School leaders across the country are facing threats because they are simply trying to follow the health and scientific safety guidance issued by federal, state, and local health policy experts.”

Viola Garcia, National School Boards Association president and a trustee of the Aldine Independent School District in Houston, Texas concurred.

“School board members are used to heated meetings and interactions around difficult decisions like hiring a superintendent, passing the budget, or school redistricting,” Garcia said. “Disagreements and heated opinions are ok. Shouting contests, harassment, abuse and threats—both online and in-person—are absolutely not. School board members want to hear from the communities they serve, especially during this critical moment in the pandemic. But community input must remain respectful and civil, even if it is in opposition.”

The interim executive director and CEO of NSBA, Chip Slaven noted that boards are working to keep students safe and attending school in-person.

“School board members must be allowed to act in their students’ best interests, or we risk losing the progress we have made,” Slaven said. “School board members around the country are doing everything they can to keep our students in classrooms and protect them while they are there. They are consulting with health experts, studying state and local caseloads and vaccination rates, and talking to parent and community members about the safest way to have students back in school buildings. School board members are our neighbors. They attend our churches and shop at our grocery stores. They have children in the public education system and share the same concerns as the communities they represent. Doing what’s best for each child in their school district is at the heart of every decision a school board member makes. But for their hard work, school board members, superintendents, principals, teachers and others who work in service to our students are being subjected to online and in-person threats, abuse and harassment. This must stop.”