CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Similar to action last year, the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees is holding off on paying its dues to the Wyoming School Board Association until it finds out if the association will retain membership in the National School Board Association.
The national association sent a letter on Sept. 29, 2021, asking for a federal intervention regarding school violence relating to pandemic issues. LCSD1 said it “strongly disagrees” with the language used by the NSBA in its letter and does not agree with the organization’s request to have federal law enforcement investigate those who attend school board meetings, calling for an elimination of “partisan positions concerning public education.”
The NSBA’s letter was delivered to President Joe Biden following a rise of disruptions in school board meetings nationwide and asked for federal law enforcement support in investigating threats of violence against public school officials. Incidents listed in the letter include a Michigan man flashing a Nazi salute in protest of masking requirements and an Illinois man allegedly striking a school official at a meeting.
However, controversy had been centered around a line on the second page of the NSBA’s letter that said, “As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” a statement some have taken to mean that the NSBA is equating meeting attendees to domestic terrorists.
After fervent backlash, the NSBA apologized for the letter Oct. 22, 2021, but several state school board groups withdrew affiliation from the NSBA. LCSD1 acknowledged a Wyoming School Boards Association letter in October 2021 that stated it would not automatically renew its membership with the NSBA.
On Monday, payment of the $21,000 in WSBA dues was part of the trustees’ consent agenda, but it was pulled for discussion amid concerns that some of that money would be used by WSBA to pay its dues to NSBA.
Trustee Alicia Smith suggested that the district pay its dues to WSBA minus the portion it would use for payment to NSBA. Concerns about that included how the district would dictate expenditure of dues funds after writing the check to the WSBA. One solution was to have Brian Farmer, executive director of the WSBA, provide an updated dues price that would not include the WSBA’s dues to NSBA.
Trustee Rene Hinkle said she doesn’t agree with withholding the WSBA’s dues based on NSBA membership. She said she was personally aware of parents who were threatened and who did not attend another board meeting during the time period of the NSBA’s letter.
“There definitely was reason that these things did happen, so I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable for the NSBA to have had some concerns,” Hinkle said.
Trustee Christy Klaassen said her concern was the affiliation of LCSD1 with the NSBA through the WSBA, adding the NSBA was “getting into politics.” She said the school district shouldn’t be seen as being affiliated with one side or the other. She would support having no money streams going to an organization that’s political.
Hinkle fired back that if that’s the case, trustees shouldn’t be taking money from political parties.
Klaassen asked the board to stay on message, adding it’s inappropriate “to say things that aren’t fact-based about each other.”
Voting immediately afterward, an amendment on the payment of WSBA dues to subtract its NSBA dues passed 4–2.
The board then opted to withhold voting on paying the remaining dues until its July meeting since the WSBA has not yet made a decision to remain an NSBA member and LCSD1 dues to WSBA aren’t due until July 31.