GOP Congressman Questions Garland's Ties to Woke Learning Company

Parents say AG's memo is an effort to stifle criticisms of critical race theory

Chief Judge Merrick Garland / AP
October 14, 2021

A Republican congressman is questioning Attorney General Merrick Garland's ties to a left-wing education company after the Justice Department directed law enforcement to investigate threats against school officials at public school board meetings.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R., Colo.) on Thursday asked Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz to investigate Garland's connection to Panorama Education. Founded by Garland's son-in-law, Panorama creates race- and gender-based surveys for students. Lamborn called Garland's connection to the group "concerning," given his recent attempts to meddle in school board meetings.

"While working in authoritarian fashion to halt dissent at school board meetings across the country, a company cofounded by AG Garland's son-in-law is making millions on curriculum that delves into Critical Race Theory and Gender Theory," Lamborn told the Washington Free Beacon. "The family of the attorney general should not profit, while millions of American parents across the country are being silenced."

On Oct. 4, Garland directed FBI and state officials to investigate harassment and threats against school board members. Many parents consider Garland's memo a veiled attempt to silence criticisms of public school officials who promote critical race theory in the classroom, including lessons on privilege and oppression Panorama Education promotes.

Parents began flocking to school board meetings during the coronavirus pandemic to contest reopening plans and an uptick of radical racial and gender ideology. Meetings in several public school districts have grown contentious between parents and school board members. In some districts, parents have successfully recalled or voted out school board members who opposed reopening schools or promoted lessons based on critical race theory or "antiracism" for K-12 students.

Panorama Education's resources for teachers and students include equity surveys and training on oppression and white supremacy. One Panorama Education workshop promoted social emotional learning as a tool for "dismantling white supremacy within systems and self," the Washington Examiner reported. That presentation defined "systemic racism" as "the systematic distribution of resources, power and opportunity in our society to the benefit of people who are white and the exclusion of people of color."

Screenshots of another Panorama Education survey shared via Twitter show a questionnaire that asks 12-year-olds if they identify as "pansexual," "aromantic/asexual," or "genderqueer or genderfluid."

Panorama Education also recommends teachers read a book by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, according to the Examiner. The company has provided resources to more than 12 million elementary and high school students in 21,000 schools, according to its website.

Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia—one of four suburban districts outside of Washington, D.C., that became hotbeds for critical race theory over the past year—hired Panorama Education to conduct screenings on the district's 180,000 students. The group will use that data to create "psychological profiles" for Fairfax students, as part of the district's promotion of "social and emotional learning." The district will allocate more than $2.4 million of its coronavirus relief funds to the program.

Garland's directive to federal and state law enforcement followed a letter from the National School Boards Association, which called on the Biden administration to "examine appropriate enforceable actions" for parents who allegedly commit "crimes and acts of violence" against school board members. That letter likened parents' speech to "domestic terrorism."

The Justice Department did not commit the same resources to investigating school board members who threaten violence against parents. Such an instance occurred in Loudoun County, Va., earlier this year, when school board member Beth Barts orchestrated an online intimidation campaign against parents who opposed districtwide equity initiatives.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.