As violent crime spikes in the United States, Attorney General Merrick Garland is directing his attention elsewhere, ordering the FBI and U.S. attorneys to investigate harassment and threats against school officials.
The Justice Department on Monday directed federal, state, and local law enforcement to address a "disturbing spike" in harassment against public school board members and teachers. The move comes as parents increasingly flock to school board meetings to voice their concerns with coronavirus mitigation strategies and critical race theory.
Some parents say the Justice Department’s memo is an attempt to silence dissent.
"It is shameful that activists are weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice against parents," Parents Defending Education president Nicole Neily told the Washington Free Beacon. "This is a coordinated attempt to intimidate dissenting voices in the debates surrounding America’s underperforming K-12 education—and it will not succeed. We will not be silenced."
School board meetings have grown contentious over the course of the pandemic. Tensions often flare at these meetings between factions who disagree on masking and vaccine policies as well as curricula that teach that American systems are inherently racist. In some districts, parents have organized to vote out or recall school board members who refused to open schools or turned a blind eye to radicalism in the classroom.
In response, school boards have taken steps to limit public comment. The Prince William County School Board in Virginia passed limits to public comment during a contentious Sept. 15 school board meeting. That meeting grew combative when parents began taunting each other. A local Democratic leader, Tonya James, shouted "fuck you" at attendees.
The National School Boards Association called on the Biden administration to weaponize national and state law enforcement against parents in a Sept. 29 letter. The group likened parents’ speech to "domestic terrorism" and asked the federal government to "examine appropriate enforceable actions" against alleged "crimes and acts of violence," as authorized under the Patriot Act.
In Loudoun County, Va., school board members created a Facebook group where members shared personal information of parents who opposed the district’s equity initiatives. The group, Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County, used that information to intimidate their opponents.
The Justice Department did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment as to whether it will also investigate instances of school board members or other officials targeting parents.
Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, says the Biden administration is trying to force parents to accept unpopular COVID policies and radical curriculum standards.
"While the DOJ’s announcement yesterday may purport to merely focus on ‘criminal conduct,’ its real intent is to further intimidate concerned parents into submission," Schilling said in a statement calling the Biden administration’s actions "an outrage."
The Justice Department memo is the Biden administration’s latest attempt to reform public education from the top down. President Joe Biden issued an executive order early in his term that forces schools to gives students access to sports teams and restrooms based on their "gender identity" rather than their biological sex. In April, the Department of Education proposed a rule to incentivize schools to adopt curricula that teach students about "systemic marginalization" and "inequities."