Shortly after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent an infamous letter to the White House comparing concerned parents to domestic terrorists and inspiring a Department of Justice memo, the National Education Association (NEA) sent a similar letter to social media companies, urging them to stifle "propaganda" about critical race theory which had supposedly stoked "a small but violent group of radicalized parents."
Following recent revelations that the White House actually helped draft the NSBA letter and claims that Education Secretary Miguel Cardona solicited the letter (a claim a Department of Education spokesperson has denied), critics have suggested that the NEA letter represents yet more coordination between government and interest groups to silence parents.
"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 Digital on Wednesday. Noting the claims about the White House and Cardona, he 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 suggested.
NSBA sent its letter on Sept. 29, warning that school boards face "physical threats" due to opposition to COVID-19 policies and critical race theory. After the Department of Justice issued an Oct. 4 memorandum that echoed the letter, NSBA issued an apology for it on Oct. 22. NEA sent its letter on Oct. 8.
In the letter, NEA President Becky Pringle urged the leaders of Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok to combat online "trends" that "have helped create a culture of fear and violence with educators as targets."
After mentioning a TikTok trend encouraging property damage at schools, 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." Pringle here made an oblique reference to critical race theory (CRT) — a framework that involves deconstructing aspects of society to discover systemic racism beneath the surface – which many parents claim has infiltrated school curricula.
She also mentioned 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." She referenced a few examples of parents physically attacking educators over COVID-19 protocols, though she did not reference any such attacks regarding CRT.
Pringle praised the DOJ memo, saying "we applaud this effort," and accusing social media platforms of having turned schools "into centers of a culture war." She urged social media companies to "help put an end to the stream of propaganda fueling violence against our educators in our communities." She asked for a pledge "to regulate lies and fix your algorithms."
The NEA has not responded to Fox News Digital's multiple requests for comment on the letter. Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok also did not respond to a request for comment.
Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, told Fox News Digital that she found the letter "unsurprising."
"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 also countered Pringle's claims about CRT.
"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. She noted that, in 2021, the NEA voted to research groups that criticize CRT and to increase the "implementation of culturally responsive education, critical race theory, and ethnic studies curriculum in pre-K-12 and higher education."
Prior called the NEA letter "ironic."
"It's ironic that the NEA would reference 'radicalized parents' who falsely believe that critical race theory is anything but a graduate level course. It was the NEA that introduced measures this summer to support the implantation of critical race theory in K-12," he noted.
Laura Zorc, executive director of Building Education for Students Together (BEST), demanded an apology from the NEA.
"The NEA owes concerned parents an apology for accusing them of being violent, 'radicalized,' and controlled by ‘conspiracy theories,’" Zorc told Fox News Digital. "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 insisted 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."