DOJ's school board violence memo targets concerned parents, GOP says

DOJ's school board violence memo targets concerned parents, GOP says
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Republican senators criticized the Justice Department over Attorney General Merrick Garland’s new memorandum related to alleged violence and intimidation at school board meetings, calling it an attempt to target concerned parents.

The back and forth came during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday in which Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco faced questions about the DOJ’s recent actions, with Garland announcing that the DOJ would soon “announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, said the National School Boards Association asked President Joe Biden “to bring the full force and weight of the feds down onto parents who are protesting various school policies at school board meetings, including the indoctrination of children with an anti-American doctrine known as critical race theory or protesting that children as young as two be required to wear masks.” Cotton added that “violence is not an acceptable form of political protest” and asked Monaco if she believes it is “domestic extremism” for a parent to advocate for his or her child’s best interests.

Monaco replied: “There can be very spirited public debate, and there should be very spirited public debate on a whole host of issues, but when that tips over into violence or threats, there is a role for law enforcement.“

Cotton cut her off and asked again, and she responded: “What you have described, no, I would not describe as domestic extremism.”

The senator then asked if it is domestic extremism for a parent “to want to have a say” in what his or her child is taught, and Monaco replied, “It’s important for parents’ voices to be heard.”

Cotton asked if it is domestic extremism for parents “to oppose their children being taught to treat people differently because of race.”

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Monaco said the DOJ’s job “is to apply facts to law, not to opine on letters that are put forward.”

Monaco told Cotton that Garland's memo aims "to make sure there’s awareness about how to report threats that may occur and to ensure that there’s an open line of communication to address threats, to address violence, and to address law enforcement issues in that context, which is the job of the Justice Department — nothing more.”

Garland’s memo claimed that “there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff,” and it argued that “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.”

The attorney general said the DOJ will "discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, said the Biden administration is “weaponizing the bureaucracy to go after political opponents.”

Hawley concluded, “All I can say is this is truly extraordinary. … 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. And you are attempting to interfere with their rights as parents and, yes, with their rights as voters.”

The leaders of the NSBA sent a Sept. 29 letter to Biden, arguing that America's public schools are "under an immediate threat" and requesting assistance from federal law enforcement.

The NSBA letter said, “Coupled with attacks against school board members and educators for approving policies for masks ... 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.”

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The group specifically requested a “joint collaboration among federal law enforcement agencies, state and local law enforcement, and with public school officials.”

The NSBA argued that “the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes” and called upon the Justice Department to review whether the PATRIOT Act “in regards to domestic terrorism” or a presidential executive order could be deployed.

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Tags: News, FBI, Department of Justice, Merrick Garland, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley

Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Original Location: DOJ's school board violence memo targets concerned parents, GOP says