In response to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s memo last week instructing FBI and other law enforcement to look into threats of violence against school officials and teachers, America First Legal (AFL) has sent a letter to the Inspector General urging him to investigate whether the Department of Justice is improperly targeting parents and their constitutional rights.
The letter, written by AFL Senior Counselor Reed Rubinstein, argues that parents have a constitutional right to voice their opinions about controversial issues such as mandatory masking, Critical Race Theory, and the acceptance of gender ideology.
“On this basis alone, the nationwide protests by parents against public school policies and practices—regarding Critical Race Theory indoctrination; anti-religious and anti-family gender ideology; and/or forced online education and mask mandates—are entitled to the most robust federal constitutional protection,” he wrote.
Rubinstein argues that the Justice Department may be inappropriately taking actions to intimidate and push back against parents angry about school management and curriculum.
“Instead, the facts surrounding the Attorney General’s Memorandum of October 4, 2021 suggest the department may be committing federal law enforcement resources to inappropriately prevent parents from exercising constitutionally-protected rights and privileges,” Rubinstein said.
Garland did not specifically name parents as the target of the increased law enforcement coordination in his memo, but he was also similarly vague in specifying what specific threats that the DOJ was trying to address.
“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 said,
He continued, “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 memo also announced that he would be working with the FBI to coordinate strategies to protect school board officials and teachers. His memo closely followed a letter by the National School Boards Association to President Biden to address the increase in threats and harassment they say that teachers have been receiving in recent months.
However, the AFL argued that Biden stakeholders were trying to get parents to back down from speaking out about policies at their children’s schools. They want Inspector General Michael Horowitz to investigate whether or not parents are being unfairly targeted by Garland’s recent actions.
“At this point, the dangers inherent in the undue politicization of the department’s criminal and civil law enforcement authorities, and in the corruption of the department’s standard order and process, should be evident,” Rubinstein said.
Several lawmakers at the state and national level have responded to Garland’s memo, some saying that he is trying to silence parents critical of their children’s schools.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sent a letter to the attorney general last week voicing his concerns with the memo.
“The memorandum purports to respond to a ‘disturbing spike’ in threats and harassment against these officials – although it’s silent as to the supposed perpetrators or any actual predicates for this action,” McConnell said.
“Attorney General Garland is weaponizing the DOJ by using the FBI to pursue concerned parents and silence them through intimidation,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said, “Florida will defend the free speech rights of its citizens and will not allow federal agents to squelch dissent.”