OPI’s Elsie Arntzen Asks MSBA to Denounce Association with NSBA
With all the vitriol and even violence occurring at school board meetings around the country, the National School Boards Association has referred to some parents as being ‘domestic terrorists’.
Following that statement, Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen has sent a letter to the Montana School Boards Association, asking it to ‘denounce its association with the National School Boards Association’.
KGVO News spoke with Arntzen on Friday.
“In this letter I've encouraged them to distance and even stop any payment from Montana tax dollars toward this association until things get hotter want to say evened out. So we can definitely understand what leadership ability is coming from national into our state. But also the letter was a call to our school boards across our state to heal to make sure that they are putting our children's education and our children's future first, not the (national) association’s voice.”
Arntzen provided guidance to the over 400 local school boards that are part of the state association to seek peaceful dialogue with parents in each school community.
“We are encouraging our Montana Association of School Boards to follow the Montana way, which is to respect the First Amendment rights of our parents within any discussion that occurs in the school board rooms, and we want to make sure that Montana has the ability to distance itself from a very divisive association that is cutting through to the heart of how we deliver education in Montana, and that is in a partnership with our parents.”
Arntzen acknowledged that rhetoric can be heated on both sides of the issue, especially over the subject of masks and vaccinations.
“We know it is happening,” she said. “We know that on both sides of this issue ‘boardsmanship’ has been lacking, but we also know that there has been some parental discussion that may have pushed the limit as well.”
Arntzen said parents and school board members must act as adults to help craft policies that heal rather than divide neighborhoods and communities.
“My message is to heal,” she said. “My message is to say who we need to act as adults, and we need to put our Montana students, our children first. They do not need to learn these lessons in boardrooms. They need to understand that civil discourse is so important, that respect must happen, that there must be unity regardless of one side of the issue or the other.”
Arntzen referenced a letter she has sent to each of Montana’s local school boards clearly delineating her call to disassociate with the National School Board Association.
The Superintendent's letter followed a memo sent by Acting United States Attorney Leif Johnson late last week to Montana's Attorney General, County Attorneys, Sheriffs, the Office of Public Instruction, and the Montana School Boards Association.