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'No legitimate basis' for 2021 DOJ memo on school board threats, House Republicans say

FILE -{ }Parents are shocked and outraged after finding out our own federal government used the FBI to investigate parents who spoke up at school board meetings. (TND)
FILE - Parents are shocked and outraged after finding out our own federal government used the FBI to investigate parents who spoke up at school board meetings. (TND)
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Parents descended on Capitol Hill Thursday, blasting the actions of the Biden administration and claiming the government is interfering with their fundamental rights to raise their children.

They say they are being shut out of their children’s education and are being tagged as threats by the federal government.

“It is tragic that they now fear the federal government,” said Nicole Neily, the president and founder of Parents Defending Education.

The frustration stems back to a 2021 Justice Department memo that directed federal law enforcement to work with local authorities because of “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against school staff and board members.

"Citing an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools, today Attorney General Merrick B. Garland directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to meet in the next 30 days with federal, state, Tribal, territorial and local law enforcement leaders to discuss strategies for addressing this disturbing trend. These sessions will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment and response by law enforcement," the DOJ wrote.

Now, House Republicans are saying that there was “no legitimate basis” for the directive.

“We are not domestic terrorists and we will not be silenced,” said Tiffany Justice with Moms for Liberty. “What they are doing is teaching through the lens of critical race theory and critical theory in general, and it’s demoralizing our children and it’s having an effect that’s causing division amongst the children and we’re seeing increases in violence across the country."

Attorney General Merrick Garland released the memo after the National School Boards Association sent a letter to President Joe Biden comparing some conduct at school board meetings to domestic terrorism. The organization has since apologized for the letter and they also say they regret sending it in the first place.

“This appeared to be a manufactured crisis. It was all put together for politics,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said.

Despite calls to do so, Garland hasn’t rescinded the memo.

“It unquestionably chilled parents in exercising their rights,” said Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel with the Alliance for Defending Freedom.

Democrats pushed back during the hearing, accusing conservatives of First Amendment violations when it comes to violent threats against school board members and book bans.

“Near my district in southeastern Pennsylvania, school board members received threats of evoking gas chambers And acts of physical violence,” said Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon.

“They invariably focus on books by black and LGBTQ authors and on the teaching of American history that includes and honest examination of race and bigotry,” Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler added.

More and more parents are pushing back against school board members and other elected officials in the form of recall elections. According to Ballotpedia, there were 29 recall efforts in 2020 and in 2021, there were 92.

The strong efforts by parents and advocates led to the "Parental Bill of Rights" being passed Friday.

The legislation requires schools to publish curriculum publicly, provide information to parents when violence occurs on school grounds and allow parents to meet with teachers upon request. Schools would also be forced to provide parents with opportunities for input when crafting new policies and would have to provide a list of books available in school libraries.

"This bill empowers parents & allows them to have a greater say in their children's education," said Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Okla.

The new bill must now head to the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. has promised a “dead end.”

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