A Wisconsin school board president has received death threats for supporting pro-LGBTQ policies.
Eau Clare Area School District Board President Tim Nordin told Wisconsin Public Radio that he received an email from a sender calling themselves “Kill All Marxist Teachers.”
The email included direct threats against Nordin and his family, and the sender promised to “shoot up” the next school board meeting for “promoting the horrific, radical transgender agenda.”
The email came after conservative media outlets published articles condemning a staff development training session that included a PowerPoint slide reading: “Remember, parents are not entitled to know their kids’ identities. That knowledge must be earned. Teachers are often straddling this complex situation. In ECASD, our priority is supporting the student.”
A joint press release from a group of school board candidates opposed to the training called it yet another example of schools disregarding parental rights by instructing teachers to withhold information from parents about “major developments” in their children’s school life.
“By indicating that information about your child is ‘knowledge that must be earned,’ [the school district] is setting a dangerous precedent. If identity questions for your child can be hidden from you, is diet, curriculum, healthcare, inappropriate relationships, mental health concerns, etc. also no longer the business of parents? Just what are parents and guardians allowed to know and when?” the release says.
Nordin said he believes the threats to shoot up the school board meeting were a consequence of misconstruing the intent of the staff training, which is that teachers are supposed to honor the humanity of students who may not feel comfortable or safe coming out to their parents — and to avoid “outing” those students if teachers have reason to believe the child would become a target for abuse if such information was known.
“[F]or some students, in some situations, we have to understand the context of that and know that if they’re not safe and they trust an adult at the school, that might be the only adult that they have to trust in their lives,” he said. “And that’s important to keeping children safe.”
Nordin said he informed his wife of the threat, who called in one of the couple’s sons from the backyard. His family locked themselves indoors while Nordin went to the school district office to warn them of the threat. Eau Claire police have been called, and are currently conducting an investigation.
The threats against Eau Claire come at a time when school boards around the country are being deluged by threats, often resulting in tense confrontations between parents and community members over curriculum, staff trainings, LGBTQ-related content, the inclusion of so-called “critical race theory,” and what they see as a lack of respect for parental rights.
These confrontations, encouraged by conservative interest groups and right-wing candidates, have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, when some schools were closed or held at-home virtual learning sessions, leading parents, especially more socially or politically conservative ones, to balk at the inclusion of certain subject matter or topics in classroom discussions.
Nordin later issued a statement calling threats of violence “unacceptable.”
“My message to those whose efforts have resulted in this threat is simple. I will not, and Eau Claire will not, shy away from doing what is right in the face of bullying, threats, and hate,” he said. “These actions aim to weaken and harm our community, but I am galvanized to continue standing for our children, our teachers, our schools, and all of Eau Claire. Our schools will always be a place for every student, and our community for every person.
“My message to the rest of you, the people of Eau Claire Area School District, is simple as well. These are Eau Claire’s schools. This is the Eau Claire community. This is Eau Claire’s election. Others want to control this election by inciting fear in you and driving votes with outside money and news coverage. They, quite literally, are trying to threaten us into submission. I remain unbowed. And I implore each of you to send a message that Eau Claire cannot be intimidated. Our schools are too important to cede to fear.”
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!