DOJ initiates effort to combat ‘disturbing spike in harassment’ against school officials

The Justice Department on Monday announced an effort to combat alleged threats and violence against members of school boards as well as public school staff and officials just days after a national school board organization appealed to President Joe Biden for federal assistance.

“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland in a statement. “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 department, Garland directed U.S. attorneys’ offices and the FBI to meet within the next month with federal, state, Tribal, and local law enforcement officials “to discuss strategies for addressing” what the DoJ called “an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools.”

“The Department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate,” Garland noted further in a memo. “In the coming days, the Department will announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.”

The move comes four days after the National School Boards Association, which represents 90,000 members, sent a letter to Biden seeking federal assistance to deal with a spike in raucous attendance at school board meetings around the country as angry parents have pushed back against the inclusion of controversial, divisive curriculum such as critical race theory and transgender policies, as well as the addition of sexually explicit books and other materials in public school libraries, some of which is suggestive of illegal behavior including adults having sex with minors.

In their letter to Biden, association president Viola M. Garcia and interim executive director and CEO Chip Slaven claimed school officials nationwide have been experiencing “threats of violence and acts of intimidation” against board members, teachers, and school staff. The letter went on to ask the Biden administration to consider whether parents’ actions should be considered “domestic terrorism.”

“While local and state law enforcement agencies are working with public school officials in several communities to prevent further disruptions to educational services and school district operations, law enforcement officials in some jurisdictions need assistance – including help with monitoring the threat levels,” they wrote.

“As these threats and acts of violence have become more prevalent … NSBA respectfully asks that a joint collaboration among federal law enforcement agencies, state and local law enforcement, and with public school officials be undertaken to focus on these threats,” the pair noted further.

They went on to write that the “acts of malice, violence, and threats” may constitute “a form of domestic terrorism.”

“As such,” they maintained, they asked Biden to direct the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to examine their complaints and deploy the FBI and “any other federal agency with relevant jurisdictional authority and oversight” to deal with parental “terrorists.”

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“While local and state law enforcement agencies are working with public school officials in several communities to prevent further disruptions to educational services and school district operations, law enforcement officials in some jurisdictions need assistance — including help with monitoring the threat levels,” said the letter.

Critics of the move say the Biden administration is attempting to quash parents’ First Amendment rights as well as intimidate them into silence.

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