Just days after Attorney General Merrick Garland released a memo outlining a mobilization of the FBI and Justice Department lawyers to investigate and prosecute school board protesters, including those objecting to the teaching of critical race theory, conflict-of-interest questions have been raised about former President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee.
Garland's son-in-law is a co-founder and president of Panorama Education, an analytical software and services company in Boston, according to multiple reports.
His daughter Rebecca Garland married Alexander ''Xan'' Tanner in July 2018, The New York Times reported, and Tanner's company sells data mining products that include equity and inclusion surveys to schools.
Parents Defending Education's (PDE) Erika Sanzi tweeted Tuesday:
"Parents are concerned over intrusive surveys and 'screeners' that ask 12-year-olds if they are pansexual or gender fluid. The surveys are often created/administered by @PanoramaEd. Merrick Garland's daughter is married to the president and founder."
PDE is an activist group "fighting indoctrination in the classroom — and promoting the restoration of a healthy, non-political education for our kids," according to its website.
PDE's Asra Nomani tweeted Tuesday, having mockingly changed part of her Twitter handle to "Domestic Terrorist" after the National School Boards Association made an open-letter plea to Garland:
"Merrick Garland has declared a war on parents. His daughter is married to the cofounder of @PanoramaEd which is under fire for its multimillion contracts with school boards. At @DefendingEd, parents sent us tips. We raised the alarm. Now Garland is trying to silence parents."
Nomani has been investigating the schools seeking to teach critical race theory, filing a critical blog post about Garland's "conflict of interest."
"Panorama Education will profit from Garland's outrageous silencing of parents who are challenging its data mining of K-12 students," she wrote Tuesday. "Allow me to peel back the onion.
"In early September, a parent tipped us off at Parents Defending Education, an advocacy group, that Fairfax County Public Schools had quietly signed a $1.8 million contract with Panorama Education, a Boston-based Big Tech contractor, to conduct a multi-year 'social and emotional learning screener,' giving them the right to collect 'psychometrics' on the school district's 180,000 students with invasive questions such as whether they feel 'sad' or 'gender fluid.'"
Parents have been protesting at school boards over political hot-button topics, including mask and vaccination mandates and the teaching of critical race theory in schools.
Critical race theory is defined by the Encyclopaedia Britannica as the concept in which race is a socially constructed category ingrained in U.S. law intended to maintain social, economic, and political inequality between whites and nonwhites. It holds that U.S. society is inherently racist.
Fox News reported that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's charitable foundation the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative "was listed in 2017 as one of several organizations that gave a collective $16 million to Panorama."
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., demanded answers and documentation from Garland about his DOJ memo to use federal law enforcement to investigate and prosecute local school board protests.
"Your memo, issued just five days after the NSBA letter and copying some of its recommendations, certainly appears to be a response to and tacit approval of that letter," Cotton wrote to Garland. "The Department of Justice's endorsement of such outlandish allegations threatens to intimidate parents, chill free speech, and discourage lawful assemblies."
Cotton's demands came one day after Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., excoriated Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on whether it was considered "domestic extremism'' for parents 'to oppose their children being taught to treat people differently because of race.'"
"I think parents across this country are going to be stunned to learn, stunned, that if they show up at a local school board meeting — by the way, where they have the right to appear and be heard, where they have the right to say something about their children's education, where they have the right to vote — and you are attempting to intimidate them.
"You are attempting to silence them, you are attempting to interfere with their rights as parents, and yes, with their rights as voters. This is wrong. This is dangerous," Hawley said.
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