Last week, U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., led more than 50 Republicans in the U.S. House in sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland “demanding answers on why the Department of Justice (DOJ) is targeting parents who speak out in opposition to school board decisions.”
Webster weighed in on the letter last week.
“I condemn any threat of violence against our teachers and school administrators. However, the National School Boards Association’s recent request to label concerned parents as ‘domestic terrorists’ is an egregious attempt to stifle free speech and if approved, would be a violation of these Americans’ Constitutional right,” said Webster. “Testifying before a school board meeting is a parent’s civil right. Moms and Dads should not be intimidated from participating in school discussions and advocating for their child. I have established and championed policies that empower parental involvement in their child’s education. I will continue to strongly support every parent’s right to determine the best educational curriculum and path to meet their child’s specific needs and abilities.”
“Teachers and school officials are supposed to work alongside parents to improve the lives of our next generation. I’m deeply concerned the already politicized Department of Justice is now getting involved in our education system. Threats of violence are completely unacceptable; however, this is nothing more than a scare tactic to silence parents who are pushing back against unnecessary mandates and an agenda they disagree with being forced down our children’s throats,” said McClain. “School boards are elected bodies and it’s their duty to be responsive and fairly represent the parents and students in their district.”
Among the signers were Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, Kat Cammack, Byron Donalds, Carlos Gimenez, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, Greg Steube and Michael Waltz.
“Over the past several months, we have seen increased civic involvement and participation at local government forums, specifically at school board meetings. During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are taking notice of what and how their children are being taught in the classroom, hot-button social issues being weaved into the curriculum, and what safety protocols their child is supposed to follow while attending school. While some of these meetings may get heated, most of the parents who have been attending these meetings have simply voiced their passions and concerns for their children and their futures,” the Republicans wrote Garland.
“While we agree with you that any threat of violence against these government officials should be condemned and investigated, no government official has the right to claim that a citizen may not peacefully speak out against government policies. Statements made by officials like former Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, who publicly stated, ‘I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,’ are utterly unacceptable. Government officials need to recognize that in our Constitutional republic, they are elected to represent the public. While they should never be subjected to threats, they are not above criticism or disagreement from the citizens who elected them. If we are to live in a free society, it is your job as Attorney General of the United States to defend the rights of all citizens,” they continued.
“Your October 4, 2021, memorandum to several directors across the Department of Justice informed them of your intention as the Attorney General to promulgate ‘a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.’ While we applaud your dedication to combating criminal activity across the United States, we have grave concerns with your announcement. We are requesting answers to the following questions to provide clarity on your Department’s intentions. Please respond no later than November 15th, 2021,” they added before asking several questions.
“1. What specific cases are you referencing in your memorandum that rise to the level of “criminal conduct? 2. What criteria/behavior is the Department of Justice considering “criminal conduct? 3. What federal statutes do you plan to cite in your prosecution of these parents? 4. Who will be conducting the investigation into these cases? Please provide details on the roles of the FBI, United States Attorneys, State and local law enforcement, and any other entities that will be involved. 5. Will you be looking into other cases of alleged intimidation of school board members who have attempted to end COVID-era policies?” they asked.
“As the top law enforcement officer in the United States, it is your responsibility to combat criminal behavior as well as defend the Constitutional rights of all Americans. We hope you will take these duties seriously and not stifle free speech while moving forward with your investigations,” the congressional Republicans wrote in conclusion.