Parents, pols slam FBI probe into CRT-related harassment in schools

Politicians and parents are joining together to slam the Department of Justice’s recent decision to bring in the FBI to investigate what it called a spike in “harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against school teachers, administrations, board members and other staff. 

In recent months, dozens of parents have taken a stand in school board meetings against the teaching of Critical Race Theory in classrooms and to protest mask mandates, causing some to wonder what the FBI and DOJ are actually investigating. 

The DOJ move was spurred by the National School Boards Association asking the Biden administration for assistance, suggesting that there have been threats and acts of violence and equating those to domestic terrorism. 

“Dear @TheJusticeDept Merrick Garland and @FBI Director Christopher Wray, This is what a domestic terrorist looks like? You are criminalizing parenting, and you owe the people of America a swift apology,” Asra Nomani, vice president of investigations and strategy at Parents Defending Education, posted on Twitter.

She sarcastically signed the missive, “‘Domestic Terrorist,’ Asra Nomani.”

Namani’s group has been researching how school boards across the US implement “woke” ideas into curricula, such as critical race theory. 

In a separate tweet, Nomani claimed Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a “declaration of war” on parents when he announced the initiative on Monday. 

Another parent, Nicole Solas from Rhode Island, accused the FBI of being “the politics police,” while claiming any “legitimate” violence is already “sufficiently addressed by your local police.” 

“Arrest me,” she said in another tweet. 

Garland’s decision was made after the National School Boards Association asked the Biden administration for assistance.
Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

In a memo released Monday, Garland announced that while “spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats or violence or efforts to intimate individuals based on their views.” 

The investigation will be looking at the recent spike in acts of violence against school staff members, however, Garland’s memo did not specify what those acts were.

In a Sept. 29 letter, the National School Boards Association said much of this opposition led to dozens of incidents at school board meetings this year, claiming, “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat.” 

The NSBA suggested that “[a]s 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” and asked that the administration review the question.

While Garland’s memo follows the NSBA’s request for help, he did not specify whether incidents related to the implementation of mask mandates or critical race theory would be investigated. Additionally, the memo does not classify the incidents as domestic terrorism. 

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

“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.”

Many parents, however, still see the order as targeted towards them.

“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,” Parents Defending Education said in a Monday statement. 

Elicia Brand, a parent from Loudoun County, told Fox News that parents “owe this to our children” and generations after to “stand strong in their fight for freedom.” 

“I encourage all parents to stand strong in their fight for freedom and parental rights and never falter in the face of unjustified threats,” she said. 

“I hope the proper authorities are used to find those who threaten violence or speak such hateful words, but they will not find them in the Loudoun County parent community, as we stand against that. Moms and Dads will stand strong in our faith of doing right and our peaceful mission to protect our children even more now that this letter has been released, as we are at the tipping point where the free America that we love can quickly be the America to be feared. We owe this to our children and the generations that follow.”

Sen Josh Hawley said Garland's response is more about the "democratic pushback against critical race theory" instead of actual threats.
Sen Josh Hawley said Garland’s response is more about the “democratic pushback against critical race theory” instead of actual threats.
Photo by TOM WILLIAMS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Josh Hawley joined with parents on Tuesday in their criticism, accusing Garland of only focusing on “democratic pushback against critical race theory,” rather than threats of violence. 

“All around the country, Americans are speaking out against the radical racist ideology sometimes called ‘critical race theory,’” the Missouri Republican wrote in a memo obtained by Fox News.

“Americans have responded to this radical ideology by winning elections for local school boards and protesting peacefully at school board meetings. Yet your memo yesterday to the FBI and local U.S. Attorneys ignored all of this and warned of an insurgence of ‘threats of violence’ and ‘efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views.’”

“I certainly share your view that threats of violence have no place in this country, but the backdrop of your memo strongly suggests that your concern is not violence, but democratic pushback against critical race theory,” he added.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis accused Garland of "weaponizing" the DOJ.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis accused Garland of “weaponizing” the DOJ.
Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has also spoken out, saying his state “will not allow federal agents to squelch dissent.”

“Attorney General Garland is weaponizing the DOJ by using the FBI to pursue concerned parents and silence them through intimidation,” he wrote in a Tweet. “Florida will defend the free speech rights of its citizens and will not allow federal agents to squelch dissent.”

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