Congress members have ‘grave concerns’ over DOJ’s investigation into school board threats

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FILE – In this Aug. 25, 2021 file photo, people hold signs and chant during a meeting of the North Allegheny School District school board regarding the district’s mask policy, at at North Allegheny Senior High School in McCandless, Pa. The nation’s school boards are asking President Joe Biden for federal assistance to investigate and stop a growing number of threats made against their members, on Thursday, Sept. 30. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP, File)

ST. LOUIS– More than 60 members of Congress have sent a letter saying they have ‘grave concerns’ with the U.S. Attorney General’s recent announcement to investigate ‘criminal conduct’ occurring at school board meetings across the country.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland directed federal authorities to hold strategy sessions in the next 30 days with law enforcement to address the increasing threats targeting school board members, teachers, and other employees nationwide.

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis are among the Congress members requesting answers to five questions in order to gain more clarity on the Department of Justice’s intentions. They want a response by Nov. 15.

The letter to the Attorney General says, “While some of these meetings may get heated, most of the parents who have been attending these meetings have simply voiced their passions and concerns for the children and their futures.”

The letter also says, “While we agree with you that any threat of violence against these government officials should be condemned and investigated, no government official has the right to claim that a citizen may not peacefully speak out against government policies.”

The Congress members want answers to the following questions:

  1. What specific cases are you referencing in. your memorandum that rise to the level of “criminal conduct?”
  2. What criteria/behavior is the Department of Justice considering “criminal conduct?”
  3. What federal statutes do you plan to cite in your prosecution of these parents?
  4. WHo will be conductin the investiation into these cases? Please provide details on the roles of the FBI, United States Attorneys, State and local law enforcement, and any other entities that will be involved.
  5. Will you be looking into other cases of alleged intimidation of school board members who have attempted to end COVID-era policies?

In a memorandum, Garland said 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.”

To address the rising problem, Garland said the FBI would work with U.S. attorneys and federal, state, local, territorial and tribal authorities in each district to develop strategies against the threats.

The letter also states, “While government officials should never be subjected to threats, they are not above criticism or disagreement from the citizens who elected them. If we are to live in a free society, it is your job as Attorney General of the United States to defend the rights of all citizens.”

The action is in response to an urgent request last week from the National School Boards Association. The group, which represents school board members around the country, asked President Joe Biden for federal assistance to investigate and stop threats made over policies including mask mandates, likening the vitriol to a form of domestic terrorism.

U.S. Rep Mike Bost posted the letter on social media this morning saying, “Threats of violence against public officials are never acceptable and should be investigated. But parents have the right to peacefully and passionately express their concerns about their children’s education.”

Associated Press contributed content to this story.

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