Republicans in the House of Representatives have urged U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to rescind a memorandum directing the FBI to investigate parents and alleged threats against school board members and teachers.
In a letter sent to Garland on Monday, the House Republicans said the attorney general’s testimony before the Judiciary Committee about his memo was “troubling.”
“You acknowledged that you issued the unusual directive soon after reading about the thinly sourced letter sent by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to President Biden and not because of any specific request from state or local law enforcement,” read the letter.
“During your testimony, you sidestepped the obvious effect of your ill-conceived memorandum and the chilling effect that invoking the full weight of the federal law enforcement apparatus would have on parents’ protected First Amendment speech.”
The letter went on to state that parents have a right to object to “controversial curricula” and that local law enforcers “are the appropriate authorities to address any local threats or violence” instead of the FBI.
“Because the NSBA letter was the basis for your memorandum and given that your memorandum has been and will continue to be read as threatening parents and chilling their protected First Amendment rights, the only responsible course of action is for you to fully and unequivocally withdraw your memorandum immediately,” it concluded.
Notable signatories of the letter include Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Louis Gohmert of Texas, Darrell Issa of California, Burgess Owens of Utah and Jerrod Nadler of New York.
In late September, the NSBA sent a letter to President Joe Biden expressing concern over an alleged uptick in threats directed at school boards and officials by parents and others.
The NSBA asked for "federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation."
"Local school board members want to hear from their communities on important issues and that must be at the forefront of good school board governance and promotion of free speech," explained NSBA President Viola Garcia and Interim Executive Director & CEO Chip Slaven.
"However, there also must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders as they do their jobs."
On Oct. 4, in response to the NSBA letter, Garland issued a memorandum calling on federal agencies to work with states on "strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff."
Garland said in his memo that there was a "disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff."
"While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views," stated Garland.
"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."
Earlier this month, a group of parents sued Garland over the memo, claiming that it was politically driven overreach aimed at silencing parents who express valid objections to certain ideas being in the curriculum.
"Contrary to the Attorney General's false assertion, there is no widespread criminality at school board meetings where parents and concerned citizens have expressed their opposition and outrage to the 'progressive' agenda being forced upon their children in the public schools," reads the lawsuit.
"Yet, the Attorney General considers these private citizens engaging in constitutionally protected activity to be domestic terrorists. Accordingly, the Attorney General labels these private citizens, which includes Plaintiffs, as domestic terrorists."