Whether it is Critical Race Theory, explicit sexual techniques, pandemic restrictions, math being racist or general anti-Americanism, according to US Attorney General Merrick Garland and the National School Boards Association, parents are supposed to just shut up and let the public education establishment mold their kids into compliance and conformity. Pictured: Protesters attend a rally in Leesburg, Virginia against the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Loudoun County public schools, on June 12, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
House Republicans are lecturing Attorney General Merrick Garland on the rights of parents over the education of their children: "Parents have an undisputed right to direct the upbringing and education of their children, especially as school boards attempt to install controversial curricula," the 19 Republicans wrote. "Local law enforcement—and not the FBI—are the appropriate authorities to address any local threats or violence." The October 25 letter was on the letterhead of the House Committee on the Judiciary and had no Democrat signatures.
Republican Senator Josh Hawley went a step further and asked for Garland to resign.
The rebuffs to Garland come
s with a call to rescind a recent Justice Department memo aimed at combatting perceived threats against school board members and other local education officials. Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced that Garland directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys' Offices to conduct meetings with federal, state, tribal, territorial and local law enforcement leaders to discuss strategies for addressing an alleged "increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation's public schools." The DOJ also noted "additional efforts" would be pursued, with a broad-based task force (including the National Security Division) that is being formed to "determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute these crimes," or to assist local law enforcement "where threats of violence may not constitute federal crimes."
Garland's memo was an apparent response to a request from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that the Biden administration classify protests against divisive radical curricula as "domestic terrorism" and prosecute concerned parents criminally. Late Friday, October 22, once the public had an opportunity to scrutinize what was truly going on, the NSBA apologized for the letter and its outrageous language. They were caught and exposed.
Now, in America, self-described "progressives" of any number of different stripes continue to aggressively label and attack as criminals and domestic terrorists any person or group dissenting from their radical agenda. Therefore, the NSBA and others of their ilk have few qualms about calling parents exercising their right to confront smug educrats at public hearings "domestic terrorists." What is truly alarming is that these opponents of the First Amendment appear to have backing from the Biden White House.
Using the FBI to police local school board meetings is a disturbing example of federal overreach. It would also be nothing new for the FBI. It is very easy to imagine what the Justice Department's "additional efforts" could include -- as we have already seen -- surveillance, subpoenas, infiltration, questioning, intimidation, entrapment, enlisting informants, rifling through emails and financial records, the full panoply of investigative methods usually reserved for organized crime mobsters or genuine threats to national security. These methods were never ever intended to be used against parents alarmed that their impressionable middle-schoolers are being exposed to graphic sexual material.
In Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat candidate for governor "committed the truth" in a September 28 gubernatorial debate with Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin. McAuliffe said, "I'm not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions," adding, "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." Case closed.
So, it is not surprising that the left-leaning NSBA's attitude reflects the education mandarins who are not accustomed to being challenged and are convinced that they know best what children need. Whether it is Critical Race Theory, explicit sexual techniques, pandemic restrictions, math being racist or general anti-Americanism, parents and taxpayers are supposed to just shut up and let the public education establishment mold their kids into compliance and conformity.
Groups like the NSBA form an important part of the Democratic base, and for years progressive educators have been crafting curricula to indoctrinate children with their worldview. It is a worldview that is decidedly Marxist and inspired by the critical theory doctrines of the Frankfurt School.
Met with pushback, educators call in the Feds, and the White House complied. This attempt to intimidate parents, however, has been met with a barrage of criticism, questions, and threats of investigation. Important questions of conflict of interest are being raised regarding Attorney General Garland's son-in-law Xan Tanner, a co-founder of Panorama Education, a consultancy that has multi-million dollar contracts with schools to "support equity professional development for school teams, and social-emotional staff to work directly with departments and school-based teams." Panorama appears to be one of the many companies formed to take advantage of the flood of cash directed towards supporting the "woke" education bureaucracy. During Garland's hearing testimony, he denied any conflict of interest.
The White House may soon regret going down the road of diverting the FBI from more important law enforcement issues to harass parents. Sagging White House approval ratings; an explosive national murder rate; the highest inflation rate in 10 years, the highest gas prices in seven years; and 4.3 million Americans leaving the workforce this past August -- not to mention the Chinese Communist Party's hypersonic missiles and exponentiating global "lily pads" from which to project military power -- may help focus the Biden administration on other issues besides school board meetings.
Inserting federal law enforcement into local school matters further makes the case for systematic reforms of the politicized FBI and the Justice Department. The next Congress should closely investigate how this program was implemented and which parents were subjected to FBI harassment, and should expose the links between policymakers and education pressure groups.
Chris Farrell is Director of Investigations at Judicial Watch and Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.