An Eau Claire school board president is urging his community not to "cede to fear" days after he says he received a death threat for the school district's inclusive LGBTQ policies.
Eau Claire Area School District Board President Tim Nordin told WPR he received an email from a sender calling themselves "Kill All Marxist Teachers."
He said the email included direct threats against Nordin and his family and that the sender said they would "shoot up" the next school board meeting "for promoting the horrific, radical transgender agenda."
Nordin said he immediately told his wife, who called one of his sons in from the backyard. They locked the doors, and then Nordin said he went to the school district office. Eau Claire police were called and an investigation is underway.
The email came after conservative leaning media outlets published articles condemning a staff development training session that included a PowerPoint slide that said, "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 an example of "blatant disregard for the parents and guardians of our community's children."
Nordin said he believes the threat against him, his family and the school board meeting was a direct consequence of misconstruing the intent of the staff training. He said teachers are instructed to honor the humanity of students who may not feel comfortable or safe coming out to parents.
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"And for 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," said Nordin. "And that's important to keeping children safe."
In a statement of his own this week, Nordin encouraged community members to send a message "that Eau Claire cannot be intimidated," wrote Nordin. "Our schools are too important to cede to fear."
"And people need to know that these tactics are being used to try to make them afraid, to try to tear the fabric of our schools and to try to drive votes and control through fear rather than through democracy," Nordin said in an interview with WPR.
While the threat of murder and mass shooting in Eau Claire stands out, there has been an increase in confrontational parents and community members since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dan Rossmiller, Wisconsin Association of School Boards government relations director.
"Most of what I'm going from is an uptick in calls to our office asking to speak to attorneys, asking for advice about how to handle situations," said Rossmiller. "And there's certainly been an uptick in calls related to disturbances at school board meetings, threats to individual members, that sort of thing."
Rossmiller said school board members have told him about having to move meetings to more secure locations. In one instance, he said members advised a board president not to drive directly home after a contentious meeting to avoid being followed.
"We certainly want to encourage parental engagement and community engagement, but we ask that it be done in a peaceful and respectful way," said Rossmiller.