'Domestic terrorism': Garland stumped by school rape case that spurred parent's outburst

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Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday pleaded ignorance when a lawmaker asked him about the case of a girl raped in a high school bathroom in Virginia that has become a flashpoint in the conflict between parents and school boards.

Rep. Chip Roy asked Mr. Garland if he was aware of the details of the alleged rape in Loudoun Country, where the father, Scott Smith, confronted the school board about it and was forcibly removed from the meeting and arrested.

The father’s outburst was cited in the call for a federal crackdown on “domestic terrorism” at school board meetings, which triggered Mr. Garland to order FBI action.

“Do you believe that a father attending a meeting exercising his first amendment rights — and yes getting angry about whatever lies are being told about his daughter being raped in the school he sent her to be educated in — that this is domestic terrorism, yes or no?” asked Mr. Roy, Texas Republican.

Mr. Garland denied any such assertion and emphasized that he was not aware of the Loudoun case.

“No, I do not think that parents getting angry at school boards for whatever reason constitute domestic terrorism. It’s not even a close question,” Mr. Garland said.

His testimony before the House Judiciary Committee follows a recent memo he issued ordering the FBI to intervene in violent or intimidating incidents that target state and local school board officials.

There has been a spate of parental activism at school board meetings related to pandemic shutdowns, mask mandates and the introduction of critical race theory curriculum. A video of Mr. Smith being removed from the meeting was used to depict the parents as out of control, though the reason for his outburst — which involved a school board official denying there was a rape — was not revealed until months later.

Mr. Garland’s claim to be unaware of the events in Loudoun County drew sharp criticism on social media.

Dana Loesch, a conservative radio and TV host, said Mr. Garland revealed where his efforts were focused.

Garland tells @chiproytx he has no idea if Loudoun County Schools are being investigated for not reporting the rape of a freshman girl in their bathroom because he’s too focused on people like the girl’s parents to whom the NSBA refer to as ‘domestic terrorists.’”

Mr. Smith and his wife, Jess Smith, are currently suing the Loudoun County school district under the provisions of Title IX that protects students from discrimination based on their sex.

The alleged rape prompted a public apology from Superintendent Scott Ziegler for failing to provide a “safe” environment for students.

A school board member also resigned after the controversy, but did not cite it as the reason.

• S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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