(CNSNews.com) - Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday announced a new effort to "address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel."
Garland pointed to an increase in "harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools."
Many Americans have seen video of emotional parents packing into various school board meetings to protest what the schools are trying to teach their children -- everything from critical race theory (whites are racists) to transgender "rights" (use the preferred pronoun or else), etc. Tempers also have flared over masking policies in the nation's schools.
Threats of violence are one thing -- clearly illegal, as Attorney General Garland noted. But there may be a fine line between "harassment/intimidation" and legitimate protest.
So the Justice Department said it is offering "specialized training and guidance for local school boards and school administrators." According to the news release, "This training will help school board members and other potential victims understand the type of behavior that constitutes threats, how to report threatening conduct to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, and how to capture and preserve evidence of threatening conduct to aid in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes."
The Justice Department crackdown follows a September 30 letter to President Biden from the National School Boards Association.
“America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat,” the letter said. “The National School Boards Association respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation.”
The letter cites more than twenty instances of (alleged) threats, harassment, disruption, and acts of intimidation that have transpired during school board meetings and that are targeted at school officials. "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," the NSBA wrote.
The following are various instances of "threats, harassment, disruption and acts of intimidation" cited by the NSBA: (Some sound like legitimate protest, but that will now be up to the Justice Department to determine.)
School board meetings have been disrupted in California, Florida, Georgia, and other states because of local directives for mask coverings to protect students and educators from COVID-19.
An individual was arrested in Illinois for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct during a school board meeting. During two separate school board meetings in Michigan, an individual yelled a Nazi salute in protest to masking requirements, and another individual prompted the board to call a recess because of opposition to critical race theory.
In New Jersey, Ohio, and other states, anti-mask proponents are inciting chaos during board meetings. In Virginia13, an individual was arrested, another man was ticketed for trespassing, and a third person was hurt during a school board meeting discussion distinguishing current curricula from critical race theory and regarding equity issues.
In other states including Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Tennessee, school boards have been confronted by angry mobs and forced to end meetings abruptly. A resident in Alabama, who proclaimed himself as “vaccine police,” has called school administrators while filming himself on Facebook Live.
Other groups are posting watchlists against school boards and spreading misinformation that boards are adopting critical race theory curriculum and working to maintain online learning by haphazardly attributing it to COVID-19. In Ohio, an individual mailed a letter to a school board member labeling the return address on the envelope from a local neighborhood association and then enclosing threatening hate mail from another entity. This correspondence states that, “We are coming after you and all the members on the … BoE [Board of Education].” This hate mail continues by stating, “You are forcing them to wear mask--for no reason in this world other than control. And for that you will pay dearly.” Among other incendiaries, this same threat also calls the school board member a “filthy traitor,” implies loss of pension funds, and labels the school board as Marxist.
Earlier this month, a student in Tennessee was mocked during a board meeting for advocating masks in schools after testifying that his grandmother, who was an educator, died because of COVID-19.
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. Further, this increasing violence is a clear and present danger to civic participation, in which other citizens who have been contemplating service as either an elected or appointed school board member have reconsidered their decision.
As part of its crackdown on parents objecting to the leftist political indoctrination of their children, the Justice Department announced it will create a task force "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 task force will include representatives from the Justice 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.