Ronald Reagan famously warned that as government expands, liberty contracts. Perhaps nowhere in America today is his warning more real than in our classrooms, where school board bureaucrats believe that they, and not parents, know what’s best for children.
Now, the U.S. attorney general has weaponized the enormous might of the federal government against parents exercising their constitutional rights.
Parents have an undisputed right to direct the upbringing and education of their children. The Supreme Court has called this parental right, rooted in the Constitution, “perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.”
The Constitution itself alludes to parental rights, noting in the Preamble that the Founders drafted the document, in part, to secure “the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
Parents exercise their rights
As local school boards began to impose a far-left agenda, parents began to exercise their rights. Many started to speak up, protesting vigorously against critical race theory curricula, COVID restrictions on students and other controversial policies.
In one widely reported case, during a discussion about transgender bathroom access in Loudoun County, Virginia, a father angrily confronted school board members about their cover-up of the sexual assault of his daughter in a school restroom.
The Biden administration’s response to these concerned parents advocating for their children? To deputize federal and local law enforcement to chill their constitutional rights.
It all started Sept.29 with a letter from the National School Boards Association to President Joe Biden requesting federal intervention to target concerned parents at school board meetings.
With minimal evidence, the letter asserted that “malice, violence, and threats” made at school board meetings could be “the equivalent of a form of domestic terrorism or hate crime.”
The school boards association even cited the Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism law passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, as a potential vehicle to pursue parents.
On Oct.4, just five days later – the blink of an eye in terms of government responsiveness – Attorney General Merrick Garland issued an unusual memorandum directing the FBI and all federal prosecutors into action.
The attorney general directed federal prosecutors to quickly convene meetings with local officials about violence and threats of violence at school board meetings and even opened a snitch line for complaints about concerned parents.
National Security Division consulted
In an accompanying press release, the Justice Department touted that its National Security Division – the component created by the Patriot Act and responsible for enforcing federal terrorism laws – would help to determine “how federal enforcement tools can be used” to prosecute concerned parents.
The division’s self-described mission is to protect the country “from threats to our national security,” implying that somehow the Biden administration viewed concerned parents as potential “threats” to U.S. national security.
In subsequent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Garland struggled to justify his memorandum. The attorney general admitted that the NSBA letter was the basis for the memorandum, but he did not explain why local law enforcement could not effectively address school board threats or violence.
The attorney general denied that parents were domestic terrorists, but he was unable or unwilling to explain why the National Security Division was involved in the crusade against parents.
In fact, we learned more from private open-records requests than we did from Attorney General Garland’s testimony, including why the Justice Department could move so quickly in response to the NSBA’s letter.
Emails reveal coordination
Chip Slaven, the NSBA’s CEO, explained in one email how the organization’s letter to the president was the product of “several weeks” of discussion with White House staff.
An email from NSBA President Viola Garcia noted that the group had “been engaged with the White House and Education Department” “for several weeks now.”
Garcia later received a Biden administration appointment to a federal education advisory board.
And we learned from a Justice Department whistleblower, that, as a result of the attorney general’s memorandum, the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division created a “threat tag” for use in compiling and categorizing school board and parent threats.
These emails are downright scandalous. They show how the White House colluded with a special interest group to orchestrate a letter urging for federal law enforcement intervention against a set of citizens who opposed the far-left policies favored by the Biden administration.
That letter then served as the basis for the attorney general to weaponize federal law enforcement – including federal counterterrorism tools — against those citizens for exercising their rights. And, to top it off, the special interest group’s president was rewarded with an appointment to a plum federal board.
Backlash against the NSBA letter and the attorney general’s memorandum has rightly been harsh. More than 20 state and local school board associations have cut ties with the NSBA or distanced themselves from the group.
Parents have described how they have been discouraged from participating at school board meetings for fear of federal investigation. The day after the attorney general’s testimony to our committee, the NSBA finally expressed contrition, writing to its members: “On behalf of NSBA, we regret and apologize for the letter.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.
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