During a House hearing, Attorney General Merrick Garland revealed that the controversial memo instructing the FBI to investigate parents who spoke out at public school board meetings was never rescinded.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) questioned Mr. Garland about the memo, which was issued in October 2021. The memo called for collaboration between the FBI and local law enforcement to target certain parents, citing harassment and threats of violence against school officials as the reason. However, many parents were unhappy with the left-leaning curriculum in some school districts.
Republicans had previously called for the memo to be rescinded in late 2021. Rep. Roy once again asked Mr. Garland about its status on Sept. 20, and the attorney general indicated that it had not been rescinded.
“There’s nothing to rescind,” Mr. Garland replied. “The memo was meant to initiate meetings within 30 days, and that time has passed. Nothing has happened regarding that in over a year and a half.”
The Epoch Times reached out to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for further clarification on Mr. Garland’s statement but did not receive a response at the time of publication.
The aforementioned DOJ memo requested the FBI and U.S. attorneys’ offices to hold a meeting within the next 30 days to collaborate with local law enforcement in addressing harassment, threats, or intimidation against school staff nationwide. This directive came after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to the Biden administration, urging federal assistance and suggesting that certain parents be investigated as ”domestic terrorists” under the Patriot Act.
This memo faced significant backlash from Republicans and parent groups, who argued that it was an attempt to suppress constitutionally protected speech. Earlier this year, a report from the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee (pdf) concluded that the DOJ had no valid grounds to instruct the FBI to monitor parents at school board meetings.
The March report stated, “It appears, from these documents and the information received previously, that the Administration’s actions were a political offensive meant to quell growing dissent over controversial educational curricula and unpopular decisions made by school boards.”
Virginia Father Mentioned
During the hearing, Rep. Roy brought up the case of Scott Smith, a Virginia father who was recently pardoned by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Smith had been targeted by law enforcement after criticizing the Loudoun County school district’s handling of his daughter’s sexual assault case during a school board meeting in 2021. Following his pardon, Smith stated that he is not a “domestic terrorist” but simply a father willing to do anything to protect his daughter.
“On Oct. 21, 2021, I asked you about Mr. Scott Smith, a father in Loudoun County, Virginia, who was arrested at a school board meeting where he questioned the rape of his daughter in the bathroom of a public school there. At the time, you claimed to be unaware of the case. Are you now familiar with it? Yes or no?” asked Rep. Roy.
The attorney general responded, “[I am] only familiar to the extent that I have read about it in the press. Yes.”
“On Oct. 4, 2021, you issued a memo directing the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office to address ‘harassment’ of school boards. Yes or no?” inquired Rep. Roy.
“I issued a memo to address violence and threats of violence against school personnel, not school boards. It did not mention parents as terrorists or attending school boards,” clarified Mr. Garland.
It is worth noting that the NSBA memo referenced Scott Smith’s case. In his statement after being pardoned, Smith accused the NSBA of defaming him and other concerned parents who dared to challenge their local school board.
Rep. Roy then asked Mr. Garland if he had apologized for implicating Scott Smith as a domestic terrorist in the DOJ memo.
“The memo said nothing about him, nothing about parents being terrorists, nothing about attending school boards,” replied the attorney general.
What are the arguments made by critics and supporters of the controversial memo regarding the infringement on First Amendment rights?
The controversy surrounding the memo highlights the ongoing debate over the role of parents in their children’s education and the limits of free speech. While some argue that parents have a right to voice their concerns and opinions at school board meetings, others believe that threats and harassment directed towards school officials should not be tolerated.
Critics of the memo argue that it was an overreach of federal power and an infringement on First Amendment rights. They assert that labeling concerned parents as ”domestic terrorists” was an unjustified and inflammatory response to legitimate grievances. They also point out that the memo’s vague language could easily lead to the targeting of innocent individuals and the chilling effect on free speech.
Supporters of the memo contend that it was necessary to address instances of harassment and threats directed at school staff. They argue that the safety and well-being of educators and administrators should be a top priority and that action must be taken to investigate and prevent potential acts of violence.
Additionally, proponents of the memo argue that it was not intended to suppress free speech but to combat alleged instances of intimidation and harassment. They emphasize that expressing concerns about the curriculum or school policies can be done in a respectful and constructive manner without resorting to threats or personal attacks.
The lack of a rescission of the controversial memo raises questions about the Department of Justice’s stance on this issue. It suggests that the FBI’s instructions to monitor parents who spoke out at school board meetings may still be in effect, despite previous calls for its withdrawal from Republicans.
As the debate continues, it is crucial to find a balance between protecting free speech and addressing legitimate concerns regarding the safety and security of school officials. The Department of Justice should provide further clarification on the status of the memo and its future implications.
Public discourse is essential in a democratic society, and parents have a right to participate actively in their children’s education. It is crucial to ensure that their voices are heard without fear of retribution or unwarranted monitoring by federal agencies. Parents and policymakers must work together to create an environment where respectful dialogue and engagement can take place, ensuring the best interests of students are served.
The controversy surrounding the memo should serve as a catalyst for a broader discussion on the boundaries of free speech and the appropriate role of federal law enforcement in addressing threats and harassment. It is an opportunity to reaffirm the
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