US attorney general directs FBI to investigate parents’ protests of school boards

Attorney General Merrick Garland announces a lawsuit to block the enforcement of a new Texas law that bans most abortions, at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

RALEIGH — Parents protesting their local school board may find themselves under FBI investigation following an announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

The DOJ’s press release contains a memorandum issued by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland that directs the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to investigate a “disturbing trend” of alleged harassment and threats to school boards, teachers, staff and administrators.

“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” Garland wrote in the memorandum. “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.”

Neither the DOJ press release nor Garland’s memorandum gave any details of the purported threats.

North Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop (NC-09) tells North State Journal he intends to send a letter to Garland and the DOJ requesting more information and a list of the alleged threats mentioned in Garland’s memorandum.

“Coordination and partnership with local law enforcement is critical to implementing these measures for the benefit of our nation’s nearly 14,000 public school districts,” Garland wrote. “To this end, I am directing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with each United States Attorney, to convene meetings with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders in each federal judicial district within 30 days of the issuance of this memorandum.”

“My first reaction was that I was stupefied,” said Bishop of the memorandum. “It smacks of using the threat of the FBI to intimidate a pure grassroots political movement across the country.” He added parent protests of school boards were “as spontaneous a movement as I’ve ever seen develop.”

“The moms and dads across the country have the contemptuous, self-adulating education establishment on its heels,” Bishop said.

He later added the protests have been very effective and the public should “double-down on the scrutiny” of school boards and “push back” in the face of the federal government using the “specter of the FBI” to suppress them.

The statement from the DOJ cites formation of a task force to look into “criminal conduct directed toward school personnel,” and the creation of “specialized training and guidance” for school boards and administrators. No details were included on what the guidance or training will entail.

“This [the DOJ statement] is of grave concern, and people should and will be outraged,” said Bishop.

“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,” the DOJ release reads.

The DOJ urges reporting “threats of violence” against school board members or public-school staff to the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center (NTOC) via its national tip line (1-800-CALL-FBI) or online through the FBI website (http://fbi.gov/tips).

Bishop said it is a “tremendous question” as to why federal government was inserting itself into what should be a matter for local and state law enforcement.

“This is not the Freedom Riders confrontation in the south where people were being severely beaten by crowds or mobs,” said Bishop. “You’re not seeing anything of the kind here.”

Bishop then drew a comparison between the National School Boards Association (NSBA)’s letter and national teacher union “manipulation” of the Centers for Disease Control and that agency’s public school reopening guidance. He noted that the timing of Garland’s memorandum closely follows the timing of a letter from the NSBA, which asks the Biden administration to have law enforcement treat parent and student protests of mask policies and Critical Race Theory as a form of “domestic terrorism.”

“As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” the letter reads in part.

The NSBA letter includes selective citations of news reports describing disruptions at school board meetings and characterizes protests of boards as “violent.” The letter only cites a single incident of potential violence, a man in Illinois arrested for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct “during a school board meeting.” Other local media reports of the incident say the man was being escorted out of the building for being disruptive, during which time he allegedly struck a school official before leaving.

The NSBA letter also makes claims that “extremists” have begun attending board meetings and school board members are receiving hostile messages characterized as “hate” mail.

In North Carolina, the chair of the Orange County School board in a Facebook post accused Orange County High School students who had protested sports and mask restrictions of being part of a “white nationalist organization.” Parents in the district claim the board chair, Hillary MacKenzie, is parroting claims made by an activist apparently affiliated with Antifa and Black Lives Matter during a recent board meeting.

About A.P. Dillon 512 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_