UPDATED 3:19 PM PT – Tuesday, October 5, 2021
The Department of Justice announced a directive to potentially influence the ability of parents to exercise their First Amendment rights. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the DOJ’s new order in a statement on Monday.
The agency cited an alleged increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence made against school board members and teachers by parents in public schools nationwide. This comes after the National School Boards Association claimed in a letter to the White House public schools and their staff were in “immediate danger.”
“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” Garland expressed in the released statement. “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.”
Justice Department Addresses Violent Threats Against School Officials and Teachershttps://t.co/N9NAP8bGG3
— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) October 4, 2021
In the statement, the agency said it would create a task force to address individual incidents and work to educate school staff on how to identify potential threats as well as gather evidence, which could complicate things for parents. Critics of the move argued this was a veiled attempt at silencing parents who have been speaking out against restrictive COVID-19 policies or the addition of critical race theory to school curriculum.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) released a statement in which he slammed the DOJ’s decision by asserting his state would defend the free speech rights of American citizens.
Attorney General Garland is weaponizing the DOJ by using the FBI to pursue concerned parents and silence them through intimidation.
Florida will defend the free speech rights of its citizens and will not allow federal agents to squelch dissent.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) October 5, 2021
The DOJ plans to meet with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to discuss the directive in the next 30 days.