Republican senators are investigating both the departments of Education and Justice over the National School Boards Association letter last year that compared parents attending school board meetings to domestic terrorists, as well as the DOJ memo that followed.
Eleven senators, led by Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote letters to both Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Attorney General Merrick Garland about the NSBA communication.
Emails obtained by the nonprofit group Parents Defending Education through a Freedom of Information Act request showed a high-ranking NSBA official indicating that Cardona requested the letter. The Department of Education denies this, however.
The senators' letter reads: ''That letter was the proximate cause of Attorney General Garland issuing a memorandum on October 4, 2021 directing the FBI and the various U.S. Attorneys to focus on harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence directed at school officials.''
''That action by Attorney General Garland has created a dramatic chilling effect on parents throughout the country and is an inappropriate deployment of federal law enforcement,'' the letter to Cardona continues. ''This is extremely concerning to us.
''It appears that you, the Secretary of Education, instructed a trade association to write a letter to the President of the United States so that the Attorney General might have the requisite cover to deploy federal law enforcement in a manner so as to scare American parents out of speaking freely at school-board meetings and petitioning their local governments.''
The senators wrote to Garland that the NSBA letter was behind the DOJ's memo, saying that ''we now have reason to believe personnel at the NSBA coordinated its September 29 letter with, or acted at the behest of, the sitting Secretary of Education, as well as White House personnel — in a letter that asks for the PATRIOT Act to be used against American parents.''
Referencing the response to the senators' two previous letters sent by Assistant Attorney General Peter S. Hyun in December, the senators called it ''incomplete,'' stating:
''It points to statements from your October 4 memorandum discussing how spirited debate is protected by the First Amendment and that it is the Department of Justice's job to ensure the safety of all Americans, but frankly those issues were not the focus of our two letters to you on this matter.
''Rather, we asked you to withdraw your October 4 memorandum because of the chilling effect it has on the speech of American parents.''
The letter continues that ''by involving the National Security Division and the Counterterrorism Division of the FBI in local matters, you have created widespread fear that the national security apparatus of the United States is keeping tabs on them.''
Emails had previously shown the NSBA to be in touch with the White House and DOJ in the weeks before it sent the letter publicly.
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