House Judiciary Republicans urge Merrick Garland to call off probe into school disputes

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Attorney General Merrick Garland came under pressure Monday to call off his investigation into school board conflicts after the national group that had urged him to intervene apologized for raising the specter of domestic terrorism in its letter.

The 19 Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee asked Mr. Garland to rescind his Oct. 4 directive mobilizing federal, state and local law enforcement to address threats against school officials, which he said last week was spurred by a much-criticized Sept. 29 letter from the National School Boards Association.

The association’s board of directors issued a memo Friday to its state affiliates saying there was “no justification for some of the language included in the letter.”

“On October 22, 2021, the NSBA expressed regret about and formally apologized for its letter to President Biden,” said the Monday letter from the House Republicans. “Because the NSBA letter was the basis for your memorandum and given that your memorandum has been and will continue to be read as threatening parents and chilling their protected First Amendment rights, the only responsible course of action is for you to fully and unequivocally withdraw your memorandum immediately.”

Mr. Garland was quizzed about the memo at Thursday’s committee hearing by Republicans who accused him of seeking to muzzle parents confronting their local boards about issues such as critical race theory and masks, which he denied.

“Parents have an undisputed right to direct the upbringing and education of their children, especially as school boards attempt to install controversial curricula. Local law enforcement — and not the FBI — are the appropriate authorities to address any local threats or violence,” said the letter led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the committee’s ranking Republican.

Mr. Garland referred in his memo to a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against school officials, citing the NSBA letter in his committee testimony.

The NSBA linked to two dozen articles, most of them about irate parents at school board meetings.

Two of the articles were about arrests. One Virginia parent who was arrested in June, Scott Smith, later said he had sought answers from the Loudoun County school board over an alleged sexual assault against his daughter in a school bathroom.

Tea Party Patriots honorary chair Jenny Beth Martin also called Monday for the Justice Department to end its inquiry into schools.

“Given the NSBA’s apology, the FBI should immediately cease any investigations into parents who spoke up at local school board meetings. The FBI should never have done that to begin with,” she said. “Parents who care about their children’s education should be applauded, not treated as potential domestic terrorists.”

At the hearing, Mr. Garland said the Justice Department was focused only on threats and violence against school officials, insisting “we are not investigating peaceful protest or parent involvement at school board meetings.”

The Washington Times has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.

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