A National School Board Association (NSBA) wrote a six-page letter dated Sept. 29, stating that some parents' "heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes." The letter prompted a forceful response from Attorney General Merrick Garland. The NSBA letter and Garland's Oct. 4 memorandum garnered nationwide attention from many parents and parent advocacy groups.
The NSBA letter acknowledges the need to "hear" parents. The letter also states that "America's public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat" from parents. NSBA letter also explains that it is propaganda to say that CRT is part of the K-12 curriculum. CRT has been a heated topic at many a school board meeting:
"Local school board members want to hear from their communities on important issues, and that must be at the forefront of good school board governance and promotion of free speech. However, there also must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders as they do their jobs."
"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. 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."
The Association requests aid from the DOJ, saying parents' behavior in board meetings "could be equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism." The NSBA cites numerous examples of "threats or actual acts of violence" as the basis for their plea for federal help. An excerpt states:
"As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes."
Garland's memo directs the FBI, "working with each United States Attorney," to "address threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff, and will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response."
The Department of Justice followed with a statement on Oct. 4, providing an FBI government tip link and call line in the body of the letter. An excerpt of the announcement outlines their plans:
"The Justice Department will launch a series of additional efforts in the coming days designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel. Those efforts are expected to include the creation of a task force, consisting of representatives from the department's Criminal Division, National Security Division, Civil Rights Division, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the FBI, the Community Relations Service, and the Office of Justice Programs, to determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute these crimes, and ways to assist state, tribal, territorial and local law enforcement where threats of violence may not constitute federal crimes."
The pandemic seems to have ushered in what feels like an unprecedented era of parental involvement, with remarkable numbers of parents protesting and voicing concerns at local school board meetings. Parents have protested all manner of causes, from mask and vaccine mandates to critical race theory (CRT) materials that have long been integral in circles of higher education—but are now common in K-12 education. Many families have realized that if they don't speak for their children, no one will.
Some parent groups are reacting with disbelief to having been identified as threatening people who should be monitored by the FBI. Loudoun County parents Joe Mobley and Patti Hidalgo Menders in an Oct. 4 Fox News spot remind viewers that parents are in charge of their children, not the government or public schools. Mobley says:
"There seems to be a lack of understanding about how the government works. The school board is elected by the parents. The parents are the authority. The citizens are the authority over the school board and, actually, overall government in the United States."
Menders says this isn't a Republican or Democrat issue. In a televised debate with Virginia Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin who believes in parental involvement in schools, Candidate Terry McAuliffe offered that he "[doesn't] think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." Menders agrees with Youngkin:
"This is not about politics; this is about parenting. This is not a Democrat or Republican thing. This is about our children."
The North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA) wrote a letter to the State Assembly requesting help with the "incivility and disorder taking place at school board meetings." The letter describes threats to board members and disorderly conduct by some parents:
North Carolina Association of School Boards
"In my school district, we no longer have in-person school board meetings without a police officer present. And we are not alone. I regularly talk with colleagues—school board members and superintendents—across the state who are fearful for or receive threats to their safety."
Several parent advocacy organizations, including Moms for Liberty, wrote a letter embedded in the tweet below. The letter was written in response to the NCSBA statement and a Sept. 28 press release from the North Carolina State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis, Vice Chairman Alan Duncan, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt. An excerpt from the parents' letter reads:
"Whatever one's feelings are about CRT or masks, there's not a reasonable person who thinks that threatening to prosecute parents who are advocating for their child is anything short of disgraceful."
One of the authors of the above letter, President of Ed First Alliance Sloan Rachmuth, spoke online with two mothers to hear them speak their minds on the subject of parental involvement in their children's education. Their conversation is below:
Parents are also being threatened, according to Menders. UncoverDC spoke with Menders on Monday. She shared some footage, split into two videos below, explaining she has been "viciously attacked" by a board member. She says "courage begets courage," and parents must fight for their kids:
Parents are worried that powerful federal agencies will now be weaponized against them as a result of Garland's memo. During a February confirmation hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked Garland whether he planned to be "Biden's wingman," referring to former AG Eric Holder's well-circulated statement explaining his role with former President Obama. The exchange between Cruz and Garland is quoted below:
"Am I right in assuming you do not view your role as attorney general as being Joe Biden's wingman?" Cruz asked.
"I do not regard myself as anything other than the lawyer for the people of the United States. I am not the president's lawyer. I am the United States lawyer," Garland said. "And I will do everything in my power, which I believe is considerable, to fend off any effort by anyone to make prosecutions or investigations partisan or political in any way."