Sacramento’s Surprise Reaction to the California School Boards Association Appeal for Police Help
California’s school board officials say “nothing in recent memory could have prepared” them for the danger they face as parents “lash out on a variety of topics, most notably opposition to state mandates and local COVID-19 mitigation measures.”
That was the substance of a September 29 letter in which California School Boards Association (CSBA) CEO Vernon M. Billy begged Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta “to convince, command, or otherwise urge local law enforcement to uphold public health and safety orders, help maintain order at local school board meetings when requested, and enforce the law as they are sworn to do.”
School life for your average board member or teacher, if you believe Billy, is a battlefield, and police won’t do anything.
“I’ve watched in horror as school board members have been accosted, verbally abused, physically assaulted, and subjected to death threats against themselves and their family members,” Billy wrote. “The list of dangerous and outrageous conduct committed against school trustees during their board meetings is far too long to list here, but I will try to provide a representative sample.”
Billy’s letter reads weirdly like the National School Boards Association letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, and – surprise! – it was published the same day. The NSBA’s September 29 letter to Garland characterized as “domestic terrorism and hate crimes” parent objections to school closures, COVID vaccine and mask mandates for students, Critical Race Theory in K-12 classes, and bizarre gender-fluidity classes and programs. That letter said Garland ought to leverage the Patriot Act in a war against parents.
Multiple reporters subsequently proved that few of the incidents acts of what the NSBA called terror or “hate crimes” amount to anything more than constitutionally protected speech, and under no circumstance required — or even allowed – federal intervention.
NSBA subsequently apologized for the letter, but that didn’t stop Garland from directing the FBI to investigate parents — likely in order to shut down legitimate parent protests that hampered the power of teachers unions and the school board officials to control public education.
But reading the CSBA’s letter, Bonta, the state’s top law enforcement officer and a dependable ally of the teachers unions that control most California school boards, did something absolutely surprising.
Bonta did nothing.
That’s, at least, according to Bonta’s own Department of Justice. In response to a California Policy Center public records request for communications among Department of Justice staffers, the AG reported, “We have searched our records and legal indices and found no records responsive to your request. You appear to be seeking records that are not in the control or custody of the California DOJ [Department of Justice].”
The fact that Bonta’s DOJ responded with no documents — not even the CSBA letter addressed to him — is remarkable.
It’s even more extraordinary given conversations about the same CSBA letter over at the Governor’s office.
In response to CPC’s request for communications in Newsom’s office, the governor’s staff replied that it had “identified records responsive to your request” but claimed “those records are exempt from disclosure as records of correspondence of and to the Governor or his staff (Gov Code. § 6254(l)); or records that reveal the deliberative process of the Governor or his staff (Gov. Code, § 6255; Cal. First Amend. Coalition v. Super. Ct. (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 159; Times Mirror Co. v. Super. Ct. (1991) 53 Cal.3d 1325.”
The governor’s response reveals more than Newsom might appreciate. It’s now clear that Newsom’s team produced multiple records related to Billy’s request that Newsom and Bonta deploy law enforcement to quell parent dissent. It’s equally clear that Gov. Newsom doesn’t want those communications made public.
This latter point is especially significant given what reporters have found in the Merrick Garland case. Emails obtained by Parents Defending Education show that Garland’s federal staff worked with the NSBA to choreograph the NSBA’s letter and Garland’s rapid response.
In Sacramento, neither Bonta nor Newsom have denounced the California School Boards Association letter. Add that failure to the growing list of parent grievances about an education establishment that treats parents as enemies.
Stand Up for Parents! Tell your school board to stop using public dollars to fund the California School Boards Association. You can tell Rob Bonta and Gavin Newsom to denounce this attempt to intimidate parents of school-age kids by signing this petition.
Will Swaim is the President of the California Policy Center and co-host of National Review’s Radio Free California Podcast.