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Secretary of Education answers school masking questions from Sen. Braun

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) -- The types of protests and threats emerging from school board meetings over masking policies, like we've seen in districts across northeast Indiana, are happening all across the country.

It's prompted the National School Boards Association to ask for federal help to investigate and stop those threats.

In a committee meeting on Capitol Hill Thursday, Indiana Republican Senator Mike Braun questioned the Secretary of Education about the issue.

"I know that some of those meetings are a little rowdy. In this case I think the discussion was on mask mandates," Braun said.

"Rowdy and dangerous in some places," Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona replied.

Sen. Braun questioned the Secretary of Education about disruptive parents at school board meetings regarding masking policies.

Senator Braun served on a school board for 10 years and knows how some contentious topics can rile parents at board meetings.

The Senate Health, Education, and Labor and Pensions Committee heard testimony from the Education Secretary about how the Senate can help schools as they work to safely reopen for in-person learning.

Across the country during the past 18 months of the coronavirus pandemic, every student's learning was disrupted in some way.

And now some parents are disrupting school board meetings over masking policies that would get kids back in the classroom as they have in the Northwest Allen County School district.

So much so that the board decided to eliminate public comments for a while until people could behave civily.

Braun questioned Cardona about it.

"I know that across the country our school board meetings are a little bit more intense, but I'll tell you, school boards are unwavering in their support for returning students to school and providing a safe learning environment… Senator, I'll tell you, the lack of civility in some of our meetings is disappointing, and frustrating, particularly because they are educators and board members -- you were a board member -- they've worked tirelessly over the last 18 months to provide a safe environment," Cardona said.

Thursday, the National School Boards Association sent a letter to the Biden administration asking for coordination at the federal level -- including the FBI and Department of Homeland Security -- of local and state police agencies to investigate and stop online and in-person threats school board members have received, including death threats against them and their family members, as they debate whether to require masks in their district.

The organization insists the move is not about silencing parents, but stopping threats and acts of intimidation.

A National School Boards Association spokesman confirms the organization has already heard back from the White House and Department of Education that they're looking into how that might be accomplished.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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