Threats of violence against public servants are illegal, which covers public school board members and educators, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. Republican lawmakers have shown concern the department would target parents who are concerned regarding public schools' policies.
"He doesn't stand for the fundamental right — I assume you don't either — for people to take violent action against public servants. And that's what the threats are about," she told reporters.
School board meetings nationwide have grown increasingly confrontational as officials and parents clash about how to handle the coronavirus pandemic, especially over mask or vaccine mandates for students and staff. There is further heated debate about the perceived value set on critical race theory in curricula. Some parents are concerned the theory indoctrinates kids into thinking the United States is an inherently racist society.
The National School Boards Association asked Biden last week for aid in recognizing these threats as a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes. Psaki reminded reporters on Wednesday that the association was not part of the federal government.
"I'd point you to them," she stated, adding she did not speak for the group.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that her department was not seeking to censor parents' right to free speech with their law enforcement reaction. Rather, she maintained it was working to improve communication between local and state agencies regarding the threats.
Garland issued a memo a day earlier asking FBI representatives and federal prosecutors to talk with local and state police within 30 days regarding strategies to handle the "disturbing trend." Possible proposals include a training program and a new federal task force.
“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values,” he stated. “Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety.”
Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, announced that the National School Boards Association asked President Joe Biden “to bring the full force and weight of the feds down onto parents who are protesting various school policies at school board meetings, including the indoctrination of children with an anti-American doctrine known as critical race theory or protesting that children as young as two be required to wear masks.” Cotton continued that “violence is not an acceptable form of political protest” and asked Monaco if she believes it is “domestic extremism” for a parent to advocate for his or her child’s best interests.