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By Miriam Raftery

October 27, 2021 (Washington D.C.) – Following a rise in complaints by school board members, teachers and school workers over threats of violence, harassment and intimidation, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced plans to convene a meeting with federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement leaders to create strategies for addressing this trend.

In a press release, the Dept. of Justice also encouraged education officials to report threats to the FBI’s National Threat operations Center tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI or via the FBI website at http://fbi.gov/tips. “Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” Garland states. “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.”

Republicans have criticized Garland for setting up what they term a “snitch line on parents” and seeking to suppress free speech. But in testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, Garland made clear that he has no intention of targeting free speech, which he said is “totally protected by the First Amendment…We are only concerned about violence and threats of violence against school administrators, teachers, staff.” 

In response to the Dept. of Justice announcement, Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican from the 50th district which includes San Diego and much of East County, introduced the “Stand With Parents” resolution.

“Parents should be empowered to directly communicate with education professionals and other public entities that directly shape and determine their children’s schooling, development, health, and well-being,” said Issa. “Parental input at the community level that is presented in a lawful and appropriate manner should always be received and not discouraged.”

Congressman Issa was joined by 22 of his colleagues in introducing this resolution, which specifically outlines the importance of parental influence in and outside of the classroom. A full copy of the resolution can be found HERE.

“In numerous public meetings and even at the highest levels of government, parents are being labeled as domestic terrorists. And the Biden Administration wants to silence them,” said Issa. “I won’t let that happen. It’s time for the People’s House to stand with America’s parents.”

Garland disputed this point in his testimony, making clear that his memorandum does not use the words `domestic terrorism.’ He also clarified that he does not foresee any circumstance in which the Patriot Act would be used against parents complaining on behalf of their children, “nor can I imagine a circumstance where they would be labeled as domestic terrorism.”

The National School Boards Association asked President Joe Biden in late September to intervene against malice, violence and threats against public school officials, which the group said “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”

Some of those incidents stemmed from parents upset over masking and vaccine mandates in schools, including cases of school board members stalked at home and threatened with violence.

The NSBA later issued an apology  for using the term domestic terrorism in regard to parents in its letter.

Dr. Darshana Patel, president of the San Diego School Boards Association, told CBS 8 that locally, around 10 school districts have recently had school board meetings disrupted.

Poway Unified School District, where Dr. Patel is also a board member, recently had to end a meeting after protesters barged in. Patel says time-sensitive actions were disrupted, adding, “It’s our students who suffer ultimately” as a result. The Poway district has since notified parents that anyone who disrupts a public meeting may be asked to leave – and subject to a criminal penalty of a 500 dollar fine if they refuse to do so.

The California School Boards Association has sent a letter asking our state’s governor and attorney general for help.  The association’s spokesman, Troy Flint, told CBS 8 that beyond protesters refusing to wear masks amid a pandemic and disrupting proceedings for various causes, some school board members in our county have been threatened and stalked.

Both Flint and Dr. Patel said intervention is needed now before things get worse.

"We want them to recognize there's a serious issue and take action that could prevent a tragedy," said Flint, adding that the First Amendment “allows the public to speak, but not when it endangers the lives of others.”


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