Not long after the National School Boards Association sent its letter to President Biden that compared concerned parents to domestic terrorists, the National Education Association (NEA) sent its own letter to social media companies, urging them to stop "propaganda" spreading on their platforms against critical race theory, which allegedly stoked "a small but violent group of radicalized parents."
The NEA sent its letter on October 8, around a week after the NSBA sent their letter to the president, setting into motion a chain of events. The NBSA letter was sent on September 29. On October 4, the Department of Justice issued a memorandum stating that they would be investigating the threats highlighted in the NSBA's letter. On October 22, the NSBA issued an apology for the letter.
The NEA letter, penned by President Becky Pringle, urged leaders of Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok to combat viral online "trends" spreading across their platforms, as well as combat "lies" surrounding curriculums. This after the union had come out in favor of critical race theory.
"Our schools are the center of communities in every corner of our nation. They should be a safe place for every single student, educator, and staff member to thrive and learn. And yet, online 'trends' and false information that have spread like wildfire throughout social media platforms - from stealing school property and hitting school staff, to conspiracy theories on curriculum and coronavirus protocols - have helped create a culture of fear and violence with educators as targets," the letter stated.
Making reference to critical race theory teachings, Pringle noted "the alarming growth of a small but violent group of radicalized adults who falsely believe that graduate level courses about racism are being taught in K-12 public schools because of misinformation spread on social media."
In addition to those vocal against critical race theory, Pringle noted a "vocal group of extremists who are putting the safety of our children, educators, and families at risk over the notion that wearing a mask is an infringement on personal liberty."
Pringle continued on to applaud the Justice Department's response to the NSBA's letter, where they "mobilized an entire new task force and issued a directive to investigate violence against educators."
"We applaud this effort and will support the U.S. government in its mission to protect our educators. But where is the urgency from the very companies that have helped fuel the conspiracies causing attacks? Our schools should be centers of learning, and your platforms have helped turn them into centers of a culture war," she added.
We're calling on your companies to take this threat seriously and prioritize the safety of people over profits – you can help put an end to the stream of propaganda fueling violence against educators in our communities," the letter continued. "To that end, we're demanding that your companies make a public pledge to students, educators, and their families to regulate lies and fix your algorithms to put public safety over profits."
Following revelations that the White House helped draft the NSBA's letter and claims that Education Secretary Miguel Cardona had solicited the letter, critics are suggesting that the NEA letter represents additional coordination between government and other interest groups to silence parents, according to Fox News.
"This looks like a concerted effort between the federal government and outside groups like the NEA and NSBA to interfere with the First Amendment rights of parents," Ian Prior, father and executive director at Fight for Schools, told Fox News. Noting the claims about the White House and Cardona, Prior said that "it doesn't stretch the imagination to believe that the federal government was also involved in the NEA letter."
"Senate and House Republicans should do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of it," Prior said.
"It's unsurprising that NEA leadership is demonizing parents and concerned citizens who've expressed their concerns about the state of America's schools – after all, over the past two years it’s become abundantly clear that union leaders' primary objective is to maintain their iron grip on power – student achievement and welfare be damned," she said.
"Learning loss has disproportionately impacted disadvantaged students, and mental health of students and parents alike have suffered. Yet when individuals try to raise these points, they are smeared as 'radical' and 'extremist' in an attempt to shame, silence, and marginalize families," she continued.
Neily argued against the NEA's claims that critical care theory wasn't being taught in schools. While she says that the "graduate level courses about racism" are not being taught to young students, lessons tailored to their age groups were.
"It's a strawman for the NEA to falsely assert that 'graduate level courses about racism' are not being taught in K-12 schools; after all, the most important part of a child’s Montessori education isn't making a four-year-old read the collected works of Maria Montessori, but rather the implementation of these ideas in the classroom," Neily said.
Neily noted that the NEA voted in 2021 to research groups that criticized critical race theory, and to increase the "implementation of culturally responsive education, critical race theory, and ethnic studies curriculum in pre-K-12 and higher education."
Executive director of Building Education for Students Together (BEST) Laura Zorc demanded an apology from the NEA for their accusations of parents being violent and "radicalized."
"The NEA owes concerned parents an apology for accusing them of being violent, 'radicalized,' and controlled by 'conspiracy theories,'" Zorc told Fox News. "Through BEST, I helped train more than 1,000 parent activists in 2021, and I can tell you that this is not what I saw." BEST trains people to run for school board and focuses on issues like COVID-19 school closures and CRT.
"Creating a scary strawman while failing to address the actual worries of parents is a typical tactic for these special interest groups," Zorc added. "Social media platforms are key for parents who are trying to organize resistance to the NEA's agenda -- the NEA's call for suppressing so-called misinformation sounds like another name for censorship."
Zorc said that parents "are not going away. This year, we are committed to challenging these radical special interest groups and exposing each and every one of them for secretly trying to silence us and hijack our parental rights."