FBI Investigated Dozens of Parents Who Criticized School Boards, Found No Legitimate Threats

The FBI investigation followed warning from National School Boards Association that parents were potential 'domestic terrorists'

Merrick Garland (Getty Images)
March 22, 2023

The FBI opened dozens of investigations into parents who criticized school boards, which lawmakers say is evidence the Biden administration is targeting conservatives.

House Republicans revealed Tuesday that the FBI opened 25 preliminary investigations based on tips to the National Threat Operations Center. Six of the probes were assigned to the FBI’s counterterrorism division, according to the report from the Weaponization of Government Subcommittee. The report says the FBI opened just one full investigation out of the 25 preliminary investigations of school board threats and did not identify any legitimate threats against school board members.

Republicans say that the findings, obtained through a subpoena of the FBI, show that the Biden administration improperly used counterterrorism laws to go after parents who voiced criticism of school board policies related to classroom curriculum and coronavirus mandates.

"The Administration’s goal seems to have been silencing the critics of its radical education policies," reads the report from the committee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio). "This weaponization of law-enforcement powers against American parents exercising their First Amendment rights is dangerous."

The findings will be a focal point during a Thursday House hearing entitled "Free Speech: The Biden Administration’s Chilling of Parents’ Fundamental Rights." Republicans have invited witnesses from Parents Defending Education and Moms for Liberty, conservative parent groups that have opposed school mask mandates and left-wing curricula.

The FBI’s investigations came after Attorney General Merrick Garland issued an infamous memo in October 2021 that created a federal task force to investigate threats against school boards. Garland’s actions came in response to a request from the National School Boards Association, which called on federal authorities to investigate threats against school board members. The letter referred to parents as potential "domestic terrorists."

Republicans have also questioned the Biden administration’s coordination with the National School Boards Association on the letter. The Washington Free Beacon reported that the head of the association provided a copy of the letter to the White House before releasing it to the public. Days after the letter was released, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona appointed National School Boards Association president Viola Garcia to the National Assessment Governing Board, which tracks student progress on standardized tests.

While Democrats and the administration expressed concern over growing threats from conservatives, the FBI found no increase in legitimate threats against school boards, according to the Republican report. The bureau acknowledged that it "has not observed an uptick of threats directed at school officials since it began tracking the data," according to Republicans.

Republicans detailed some of the complaints submitted to the FBI through its National Threat Operations Center, which the lawmakers refer to derisively as the bureau’s "snitch line."

FBI agents interviewed one mother after she told school board officials "we are coming for you" during a school board meeting. The tipster who filed the complaint alleged the woman was part of a "right wing mom’s group" and is "a gun owner." The mother, who is a member of the group Moms for Liberty, told the FBI she was upset about the school district’s mask mandates, and that her comments at the school board meeting were a threat to vote school board members out of office.

Another FBI field office opened an investigation into a father who opposed mask mandates. According to Republicans, a tipster claimed the man "fit the profile of an insurrectionist" and "has a lot of guns and threatens to use them." The person who filed the complaint later told the FBI that they had no specific information of any crimes or threats made by the father.