Garland taps FBI in response to ‘disturbing spike’ in threats against educators
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday ordered federal law enforcement authorities to huddle with local leaders in the coming weeks to address what the nation’s top prosecutor called a recent “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against educators and school board members.
The Justice Department will also unveil a series of additional measures in the coming days to “address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel,” Garland wrote in a memorandum to federal prosecutors and FBI Director Christopher Wray. The department said they're expected to include a training program and a new federal task force stacked with representatives from the department's criminal, civil rights and national security divisions.
“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values,” Garland wrote. “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.”
Key context: The Justice Department’s plans mark a notable escalation of the government’s response to school board meetings packed with protestors who denounce Covid-19 mask mandates, political interpretations of critical race theory and other highly-politicized issues that affect classroom learning and school safety.
Last week, the National School Boards Association pressed President Joe Biden for federal assistance to review whether violence and threats against public school officials could be considered a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.
“America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat,” the group wrote to Biden.
“These threats and acts of violence are affecting our nation’s democracy at the very foundational levels, causing school board members – many who are not paid – to resign immediately and/or discontinue their service after their respective terms,” the school board officials said.
Looking ahead: In response, Garland directed the FBI and federal prosecutors to meet with federal, state, local, tribal and territorial leaders in each federal judicial district in the next 30 days to “facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats” against school administrators, board members, educators and staff.
“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,” Garland wrote.