U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland Directs the FBI and U.S. Attorney' Offices To Report and Investigate Parents Who Harass School Board Members
From Editor Betsy Combier: I believe that this is government censorship, and violates our First Amendment rights (The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.)
From Betsy Combier, Editor of Parentadvocates.org:
I am appalled by the actions of America's highest law official Merrick Garland, who, on October 4, 2021, urged all school board members to report parents who disagree with their policies, which is allegedly described as "harassment" under the Patriot Act (https://www.congress.gov/107/plaws/publ56/PLAW-107publ56.pdf).
This is government censorship, and violates our First Amendment rights (The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.)
Garland has not retracted his press release nor has he addressed the many concerns members of Congress, parents and people across America to his Memorandum, copied below.
[link+http://http://www.parentadvocates.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=article&articleID=9977]Attorney General Merrick Garland Must Apologize For Suggesting the FBI Use the "Patriot Act" Against Parents
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Attorney General Merrick Garland promised to provide a report to Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse detailing the results of any investigations into threats against public education officials.
“Will you pledge you will report back to this committee with the results of your investigation about how big a threat the American parent class is to school boards in the country?” Sasse asked, questioning why threats against local officials are a concern for federal law enforcement.
“I’m pretty sure you believe that local law enforcement is more than able to handle some one idiot or twelve idiots at school board meetings, but you made it a federal issue and I don’t have any idea why, and at no point today have you offered us a shred of data,” he continued.
“I will be happy to get a report back to you, but this is not about the American parent class,” Garland answered.
“I know it’s about the politicization of DOJ, and you decided to submit as a vessel, and you know better,” Sasse responded.
Garland defended the contents of his Oct. 4 memo to Sasse, arguing that it was “aimed at violence and threats of violence.” (RELATED: ‘Did You Consider The Chilling Effect?’: Sen. Cornyn Presses Garland On School Board Memo)
“Arguments against a school board are protected by the First Amendment, threats are not by the First Amendment. We received a letter from the national association of school boards—” the attorney general said, before Sasse cut him off.
“No, you didn’t receive an anonymous letter,” Sasse shot back. “White House political staff co-wrote it with this organization, which is why the organization has rejected it. You know these facts to be true, yet you still won’t disavow your memo. Why?”
Parents Defending Education, an advocacy organization, obtained emails through the Freedom of Information Act showing that National School Board Association officials were in contact with White House staffers before the group sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting that federal law enforcement officials address unruly behavior, including threats, directed toward public education officials.
One email, from NSBA CEO Chip Slaven, explains that White House staffers “requested additional information on some of the specific threats.”
“Public reporting has shown that the NSBA was in contact with the White House in the weeks leading up to the letter. Chip Slaven, the NSBA’s CEO, told his board of directors that the final letter included details that were requested by the administration during their conversations. The NSBA’s letter was the pretext for Attorney General Garland’s memo less than a week later,” a spokesman for Sasse told the Daily Caller.
“How big is the threat American parents pose right now?” Sasse continued. “Are parents at school boards one of the top three concerns you face right now?”
“The purpose of this memorandum is to get our law enforcement to assess the extent of the problem, and if there is no problem if states and local law enforcement are capable of handling the problem, then there is no need for our involvement,” Garland answered. “This memo does not say to begin prosecuting anybody. It says to make assessments.”
‘Did You Consider The Chilling Effect?’: Sen. Cornyn Presses Garland On School Board Memo
by Michael Ginsberg, Congressional Reporter, Daily Caller, October 27, 2021
Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland about whether or not he recognized that his Oct. 4 memo directing the FBI to meet with local law enforcement officials over potential threats directed at education officials would chill protected speech.
“Did you consider the chilling effect your memorandum might have on parents exercising their constitutional rights?” Cornyn repeatedly asked during a Wednesday Judiciary Committee hearing, saying that he was asking a “yes or no” question.
Garland dodged, claiming that his memo “recognized the right of spirited debate.”
“The only thing this memorandum is about is violence and threats of violence,” he said.
“Do you recognize the chilling effect that this sort of threat of federal prosecution would have on parents exercise their constitutional rights to be involved in their children’s education?” Cornyn pressed.
Garland sent the memo to FBI Director Christopher Wray and two senior Justice Department attorneys following a request from the National School Board Association (NSBA) that President Joe Biden consider “acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials” adjacent to “domestic terrorism.” (EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Banks Demands Explanation Of NSBA Domestic Terrorism Letter)
Garland admitted to seeing the NSBA letter before writing his memo, describing it as “part of the reason” he wrote it.
The NSBA letter, since walked back by the group, cites multiple incidents that Cornyn and Garland agreed would largely fall under the purview of state and local law enforcement officials.
Garland did note that the Justice Department has “authority with respect to the mail, with respect to the internet, with respect to the telephone—” before Cornyn cut him off.
“Let me give you an example,” Cornyn said. “If someone says to the school board member, ‘if you do that I’m going to meet you outside and punch you in the nose,’ is that a federal offense?”
“That’s not a federal offense,” Garland agreed, “and there’s nothing in this memo suggesting that it is.”
When pressed on why he did not rescind his memo after the NSBA apologized, Garland explained, “the core responsibility of the Justice Department, as I said in my opening, is protecting Americans from violence and threats of violence.”
“But you just said not every act of violence is a federal crime,” Cornyn shot back.
“We assist state and locals to help them in their investigations in these kinds of matters.”
EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Banks Demands Explanation Of NSBA Domestic Terrorism Letter
Michael Ginsberg, Daily Caller, October 7, 2021
Republican Indiana Rep. Jim Banks is demanding that the National School Boards Association (NSBA) explain why it believes that federal law enforcement officials should intervene in local public education disputes.
“You don’t cite a single instance of local law enforcement failing to arrest criminals who’ve broken the law,” Banks wrote to the group in a letter, obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller.
Leading NSBA officials submitted a letter to President Joe Biden on Sept. 29 requesting federal involvement in local school board disputes over mask mandates and critical race theory that the group argued could be “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” The group asked for assessments from the Department of Homeland Security and other federal law enforcement agencies, as well as investigations under hate crime laws and the PATRIOT Act.
The NSBA letter cites local news reports of school board officials ending meetings due to participating citizens not wearing masks, as well as written threats and physical confrontations. Five days after NSBA submitted the letter, Attorney General Merrick Garland instructed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to “convene meetings with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders” to address potential threats to public education officials. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco denied a connection between the NSBA letter and Garland’s memo during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. (RELATED: Republican AGs Join Forces To Warn Garland Against ‘Weaponizing’ FBI To Target Parents)
The NSBA “intentionally muddles the distinction between protected speech and unlawful violence,” according to Banks, while “conflating disagreement with violence in an attempt to convince federal law-enforcement to crack down on (their) political opponents.”
Multiple Republican senators have quizzed Justice Department officials about the NSBA letter and Garland’s memo during congressional hearings in recent days. Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton questioned Monaco about the definition of domestic extremism, while Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley compared Garland’s instructions to McCarthyism.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during her Wednesday briefing that Garland’s letter “was conveying” that “threats and violence against public servants is illegal.”
Banks requested that the NSBA provide a list of crimes directed at school board officials that were not prosecuted by local officials.
“The National School Boards Association letter is dangerous and anti-American,” Banks told the Daily Caller. “The NSBA makes clear its intent to put law-abiding American citizens with legitimate concerns over public education in the crosshairs of federal law enforcement. Not only is this unacceptable, it’s antithetical to the purpose of public education in this country and to America itself. That’s why I’ve written a letter to the NSBA demanding they produce evidence of actions directed at school boards that warrant the type of scrutiny from federal law enforcement they call for.”
Republican AGs Join Forces To Warn Garland Against ‘Weaponizing’ FBI To Target Parents
Harold Hutchinson, Daily Caller, October 6, 2021
Republican state attorneys general criticized Attorney General Merrick Garland for a memo ordering the FBI to get involved with alleged threats against local school boards.
The National School Boards Association asked for such an intervention in September.
Multiple attorneys general vowed to defend the rights of parents to be involved in debates over public education.
Republican attorneys general across the country criticized Attorney General Merrick Garland for inserting the federal government into protests against school boards that centered on mask mandates and critical race theory.
“In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools,” Garland wrote in a memo sent out Oct. 4 that announced the formation of a task force.
Prior to the memo being issued, the National School Boards Association asked the Biden Administration to intervene.
“As the threats grow and news of extremist hate organizations showing up at school board meetings is being reported, this is a critical time for a proactive approach to deal with this difficult issue,” the organization wrote in a letter to Biden on Sept. 30.
Critical race theory (CRT) holds that America is fundamentally racist, yet it teaches people to view every social interaction and person in terms of race. Its adherents pursue “antiracism” through the end of merit, objective truth and the adoption of race-based policies.
The Biden administration’s intervention drew fire from Republican attorneys general. (RELATED: Republicans Pepper Deputy AG With Questions About Treating American Parents As Domestic Terrorists)
“Biden’s Department of Justice is weaponizing its resources against parents who dare to advocate for their children. This dangerous federal overreach imposes a chilling effect on free speech by criminalizing dissent,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in an Oct. 5 release, adding, “I will always advocate for parents and will continue to push back against unprecedented federal overreach.”
In a letter sent to Garland, Schmitt claimed the attorney general had ordered “the FBI, all U.S. attorneys, and other members of the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute parents as domestic terrorists for daring to advocate for their kids.”
Other GOP attorneys general also took aim at Garland’s memo.
“A threat of physical harm against a public official is a criminal act. It is not part of public discourse,” Ohio attorney General Dave Yost told the Daily Caller News Foundation via a spokeswoman. “It is also not a federal case. Unless there is a conspiracy across state lines, or some such, it is not the federal government’s business, any more than a bar fight—and Merrick Garland knows better.”
Yost went on to urge public officials to call local law enforcement if they got threats.
“It seems as if Attorney General Garland is following the playbook of a partisan administration and weaponizing both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI by threatening parents who simply do not want their children to be indoctrinated by a Marxist ideology that divides children into groups of oppressed and oppressor while simultaneously teaching our students that America is fundamentally evil,” a statement from Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation said.
“President Biden’s use of the Justice Department to investigate is grossly inappropriate and nothing more than a political stunt at taxpayer expense. Threats of violence to anyone, including local school board members, will not be tolerated and my office will work with local law enforcement to prevent and prosecute any such criminal conduct,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge told the Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement released via a spokeswoman. Rutledge went on to suggest that Biden instead use federal law enforcement to secure the border.
Other Republican attorneys general vowed to protect the First Amendment rights of parents.
“Parents have a right to be involved in their children’s educational interests and should not be silenced. I urge General Garland to allow political speech to flourish and give local governments and local law enforcement room to handle these matters,” Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said in a statement released to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Public debate at a school board meeting is a vital exercise of basic First Amendment rights at the local level. What happens in public schools is critical to shaping our nation’s young people, and parents have a constitutional right to address those matters publicly,” a statement from Nebraska Attorney General Doug Pederson provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation read. (RELATED: Is The Current School Board Culture War Really That Different From The Past, Or Are We Just Paying More Attention?)
One state attorney general accused the Biden administration of using the Justice Department to force critical race theory into education.
“The Biden Administration continues to politicize the DOJ, ignore the rule of law, and undermine state sovereignty. This is the latest shameful attempt to force Critical Race Theory upon our impressionable children, against the will of their parents. We will not tolerate this gross federal overreach and intimidation of Arizona families,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich told the Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement provided via a spokeswoman.
“Arizona parents are rightly concerned and outraged by CRT being induced upon our schools and children. As a father of two daughters myself, I am encouraged that thousands of parents have awakened to this infestation of our children’s minds and are standing up to school boards and university systems to stop this curriculum,” Brnovich added in a letter sent to Garland obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Brnovich also disputed the claim of a rash of threats to local school officials.
“The vast majority of parents are protesting in accordance with their protected constitutional rights; the few who cross the lines into violence are appropriately dealt with by local law enforcement and existing laws,” Brnovich went on to say.
U.S. Department of Justice Press Release on Parents Threatening School Board Members:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 4, 2021
Justice Department Addresses Violent Threats Against School Officials and Teachers
Citing an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools, today Attorney General Merrick B. Garland directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to meet in the next 30 days with federal, state, Tribal, territorial and local law enforcement leaders to discuss strategies for addressing this disturbing trend. These sessions will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment and response by law enforcement.
“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” wrote Attorney General Garland. “Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety.”
According to the Attorney General’s memorandum, the Justice Department will launch a series of additional efforts in the coming days designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel. Those efforts are expected to include the creation of a task force, consisting of representatives from the department’s Criminal Division, National Security Division, Civil Rights Division, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the FBI, the Community Relations Service and the Office of Justice Programs, to determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute these crimes, and ways to assist state, Tribal, territorial and local law enforcement where threats of violence may not constitute federal crimes.
The Justice Department will also create specialized training and guidance for local school boards and school administrators. This training will help school board members and other potential victims understand the type of behavior that constitutes threats, how to report threatening conduct to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, and how to capture and preserve evidence of threatening conduct to aid in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes.
Threats of violence against school board members, officials, and workers in our nation’s public schools can be reported by the public to the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center (NTOC) via its national tip line (1-800-CALL-FBI) and online through the FBI website (http://fbi.gov/tips). To ensure that threats are communicated to the appropriate authorities, NTOC will direct credible threats to FBI field offices, for coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and law enforcement partners as appropriate. Reporting threats of violence through NTOC will help the federal government identify increased threats in specific jurisdictions as well as coordinated widespread efforts to intimidate educators and education workers.
Office of the Attorney General
Press Release Number:
Updated October 4, 2021