CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — United States Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday that he had ordered the FBI to investigate a rise in harassment, intimidation and threats against educators and school board members.
Much of that displayed during recent school board meetings across the nation as spirited debate turned to vitriol due to politically fueled arguments over mask mandates, vaccines and interpretations on critical race theory.
The kind of anger was palpable during an August Shenendahowa school board meeting, when one parent said in part, “God forbid you teach my kid critical race theory. I’ll be up in this school.”
But Superintendent Dr. L. Oliver Robinson said what came after the meeting was worse. He said parents demanded he call them, and when he did, he says the parents just yelled into the phone. He said he also received messages that seemed aimed solely at the superintendent, who is black.
“You get, in some cases, the hints of bigotry. The race factor into the equation.”
Guilderland School Board President Seema Rivera said she and some of her fellow members of the board received similar emails. Rivera says some read, “You’re pure scum. You are a communist, racist.”
NEWS10’s Anya Tucker asked Rivera if she was ever afraid for her safety.
She answered, “Nowadays, you just don’t know what people are going to do when they’re upset.”
“We are in a sad state of affairs in this country,” said Jay Worona, deputy executive director and general counsel for the New York State School Boards Association.
He applauded Garland’s announcement directing the FBI to work with local authorities and state Attorney Generals in investigating threats against educators, school officials and school board volunteers.
“Certainly, that’s not the antidote for the problem. The antidote for the problem is finding our way back.”
A way back to civil discourse.”
And to diffusing anger.
It’s even the topic of a recent webinar hosted by his organization for school board members.
Worona says a recent, ongoing poll by NYSSBA shows that a majority of board members are not deterred by the intimidation.