The nation’s largest teachers union threatened to publicly criticize President Joe Biden’s administration if it didn’t implement stricter mask guidance for schools, according to internal emails obtained by watchdog group Americans for Public Trust and provided to Fox News.

Following a statement published by the National Education Association, new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specified that regardless of vaccination status, masks should be worn by everyone in schools, Fox News reported. The NEA originally sent a drafted statement to White House officials criticizing the CDC’s guidance, but ended up publishing a statement with a milder tone, according to the emails.


On May 13, the CDC said fully vaccinated Americans did not need to wear masks indoors, which left questions over how the new guidance would be implemented in schools.

The next day, Erika Dinkel-Smith, the White House’s director of labor engagement, contacted CDC Chief of Staff Sherri Berger to say that she had stopped the NEA from publishing a sharp statement demanding additional information on the agency’s mask guidance, and requested a meeting between CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and NEA President Becky Pringle, Fox News reported.

“Would you know when Dr. Walensky would be able to call NEA Pres. Becky Pringle?” Dinkel-Smith wrote in an email to Berger. “They’ve gotten significant incoming and are getting targeted for a response from the media. I’ve gotten them to hold on their statement calling for clarification.”

Dinkel-Smith received the NEA’s revised draft statement for review on the same day as the initial communications to Berger, according to the emails, Fox News reported. 

The teachers union’s draft said:

We appreciate the developing nature of the science and its implications for guidance, but releasing the guidance without accompanying school-related updates creates confusion and fuels the internal politicization of this basic health and safety issue. CDC has consistently said, and studies support, that mitigation measures, including to protect the most vulnerable, remain necessary in schools and institutions of higher education—particularly because no elementary or middle school students, and few high school students, have been vaccinated.

On May 15, the CDC updated its guidance for schools, clarifying that everyone should wear a mask, according to Fox.

The new emails follow reports from May that purportedly showed extensive influence wielded by teachers unions in regard to CDC policies, even shaping some of the language of the February guidance on school reopening plans, based on emails obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request from Americans for Public Trust, the New York Post reported.

“This batch of emails came just weeks after we already exposed the teachers unions influenced the CDC on school openings,” Caitlin Sutherland, executive director of Americans for Public Trust, told Fox News. “Lo and behold, less than two weeks later, they’re at it again, but this time in relation to mask guidance.”

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