Justice Department To Combat Spike In Intimidation, Violent Threats Against School Leaders As Culture War Rages
Justice Department to Combat Spike in Intimidation, Violent Threats Against School Leaders As Culture War Rages
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Attorney General Merrick Garland has issued a directive to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to address a surge in harassment, intimidation, and violent threats against education leaders. These incidents have escalated as communities continue to disagree over schools’ response to the pandemic and the teaching of systemic racism.
Garland emphasized in a press release on Monday that threats against public servants not only violate the law but also go against the fundamental values of our nation. He stressed that those who dedicate their time and effort to ensuring a safe educational environment for children deserve to do their jobs without fear for their safety.
This decision comes shortly after the National School Boards Association, with its membership of 90,000, urged the Biden administration to take immediate action to protect public school leaders who face an imminent threat of violence. School board meetings across the country have become increasingly volatile, with more than 20 incidents of threats, harassment, and intimidation reported during recent months. The tensions stem from issues such as mask mandates and the inclusion of critical race theory in classroom instruction, which the school board group has labeled as "domestic terrorism."
Garland’s memorandum instructs federal agencies to collaborate with local law enforcement in the next month to develop a strategy to address this concerning increase in incidents. The Justice Department also plans to establish a task force specifically focused on prosecuting individuals who threaten school leaders. This task force will comprise the FBI as well as various divisions within the Justice Department that deal with criminal, security, and civil rights matters.
Additionally, the officials announced their intent to create training resources that will assist school boards and administrators in identifying behaviors that constitute threats, reporting dangerous conduct to the police, and preserving relevant evidence.
Chip Slavin, the interim executive director of the school board group, expressed in a media release that the Justice Department’s response sends a clear message to individuals with violent intentions, highlighting that causing chaos, disrupting public schools, and driving a wedge between school boards and the communities they serve will not be tolerated.
Recent incidents illustrate the severity of the situation. In one case, an Illinois man was arrested for assaulting a school official during a board meeting. In another, an Ohio school board member received a threatening letter, warning her that she would face severe consequences for implementing a mask requirement on campus. While some individuals have used board meetings as platforms to spread conspiracy theories and hate speech, critics who frequently clash with their school boards vehemently reject the school board association’s claim that these actions constitute "domestic terrorism." Activist and former Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani, for instance, demanded an apology from the school board group, asserting that she is not a domestic terrorist.
Conservative lawmakers and activists, including Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, have quickly voiced their accusations against the officials, claiming that the free speech rights of parents who speak up at school board meetings are being violated. Gaetz accused the Biden administration on Twitter of using federal law enforcement to suppress dissent from the ruling class.
Read the Justice Department memo here:
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