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Biden DOJ directs FBI to crack down on ‘intimidation’ and ‘threats’ aimed at school officials

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice press conference, June 25, 2021. (Department of Justice/Released)
October 06, 2021

President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice has directed the FBI to help combat “efforts to intimidate” and “threats” aimed at school officials and teachers. The move comes less than one week after a group representing 90,000 school-board members asked Biden for FBI, Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security protection from “threats of violence” and “acts of intimidation.”

On Monday, Attorney General Merrick Garland stated in a memorandum that there has been a “disturbing spike” in “harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools.”

“While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views,” Garland wrote.

In his remarks, Garland did not include examples of threats or intimidation, nor did he define those terms.

“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” he added. “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.”

Garland said the Department of Justice takes the alleged incidents “seriously” and said the DOJ is “committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats.” In the days ahead, Garland said he would announce “a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.”

The attorney general also announced a 30-day plan in which the FBI will work with U.S. attorneys nationwide to coordinate a partnership with federal, state, local, tribal and territorial leaders to “facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff, and will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response.”

“The Department is steadfast in its commitment to protect all people in the United States from violence, threats of violence, and other forms of intimidation arid harassment,” Garland concluded.

In a press release, the DOJ also announced that it will create training and guidance for school boards and school administrators designed to help school officials and “other potential victims” know what constitutes a threat, how to report threats, and “how to capture and preserve evidence” of threatening conduct.

Additionally, the Justice Department will launch a number of other efforts relating to “the rise in criminal conduct toward school personnel,” including the creation of a task force that will include 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.

The task force will work to “determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute these crimes,” as well as ways non-federal law enforcement can address “threats of violence” that do not “constitute federal crimes.”

In a letter to President Biden last week, the National School Boards Association requested the assistance of federal law enforcement and other authorities “to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation.”

“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 letter stated.

The uptick in parents and citizens pushing back against school personnel is due in large part to ongoing tensions over COVID-19 regulations and critical race theory in the classroom. In its letter, the NSBA claimed 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.”

Journalist Christopher Rufo has written a number of reports contradicting the group’s claim, including one showing 30 public school districts in 15 states are teaching the book “Not My Idea,” which says that “whiteness” causes white people to make deals with the devil for “stolen land, stolen riches, and special favors.”

The book says white people get to “mess endlessly with the lives of your friends, neighbors, loved ones, and all fellow humans of color for the purpose of profit.”

The FBI’s move to target angry citizens speaking out at school board meetings comes just days after FBI Assistant Director of Counterterrorism Timothy Langan said the Bureau does not “collect or collate information regarding Antifa,” the anti-government organization that was behind a number of violent and destructive riots that raged across the U.S. last year.

In April, police investigated a veiled death threat by Antifa against Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. Last year, Michael Forest Reinoehl, 48, a self-described Antifa member, shot and killed a Trump supporter in Portland, Oregon.