After a call for help from a group representing school boards, Biden administration Attorney General Merrick Garland is mobilizing the FBI and U.S. attorneys to "investigate and prosecute" protests at public school board meetings and schools.
"Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values," Garland wrote in a memo Monday to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Justice Department prosecutors. "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.
"The Department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate. In the coming days, the Department will announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel."
Garland's memo comes after the National School Boards Association wrote an open letter addressed to President Joe Biden, saying "education leaders are under an immediate threat."
The NSBA asked for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation, including against masks mandates, COVID-19 vaccine requirements, and objections to aspects of critical race theory being taught 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 inequalities between whites and nonwhites. It holds U.S. society is inherently racist.
"In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation's public schools," Garland's memo began. "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."
Garland's mobilization effort emphasizes creating a process to "determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute these crimes," according to the Justice Department press release.
Parents and advocates have been challenging school administrators amid widespread reports of aspects of CRT being taught in public school classrooms. The NSBA calls the allegations "propaganda" and decries the protests at meetings and in schools.
"Coupled with attacks against school board members and educators for approving policies for masks to protect the health and safety of students and school employees, many public school officials are also facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula," NSBA's open letter to Biden claimed.
"This propaganda continues despite the fact that critical race theory is not taught in public schools and remains a complex law school and graduate school subject well beyond the scope of a K-12 class."
Garland's plan includes the identification of protest threats and how to "preserve evidence."
"The Justice Department will also create specialized training and guidance for local school boards and school administrators," the DOJ release added. "This training will help school board members and other potential victims understand the type of behavior that constitutes threats, how to report threatening conduct to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, and how to capture and preserve evidence of threatening conduct to aid in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes."
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