Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is demanding answers from Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday over his recent Justice Department memo directing FBI and other law enforcement to immediately address a ‘disturbing spike’ in violent incidents against teachers and other education officials.
The Kentucky lawmaker wrote a letter to Garland disputing his ‘ominous rhetoric’ over the conflicts between teachers and parents.
Schoolboard meetings and other educational settings have become a hotbed for protest for angry parents opposing masks in the classroom and the teachings of Critical Race Theory in public schools.
In his letter, a copy of which was obtained by DailyMail.com, McConnell asserted parents have the right to exercise control over their child’s education.
‘Parents absolutely should be telling their local schools what to teach. This is the very basis of representative government,’ McConnell wrote. ‘They do this both in elections and – as protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution – while petitioning their government for redress of grievance.’
‘Telling elected officials they’re wrong is democracy, not intimidation.’
Mitch McConnell sent Merrick Garland a letter on Friday morning demanding he explain how and why he’s planning on cracking down on parents protesting masks and Critical Race Theory
On Friday morning a local Pennsylvania outlet reported on a growing number of incidents of ‘aggressive behavior’ and ‘derogatory remarks’ at board meetings in the Northampton County School District and other parts of the Lehigh Valley since officials implemented mask mandates.
In Texas, a speaking event featuring a popular YA graphic novels author was canceled this week and his books pulled from school library shelves after a group of 400 parents accused writer Jerry Craft of promoting Critical Race Theory through his work, the Houston Chronicle reported.
McConnell said the impassioned demonstrations across the country should be praised, not condemned.
‘I hope you will agree with me that the kind of grassroots interest parents have shown throughout the country in both the methods and substance of their children’s education is to be commended and encouraged,’ the senator wrote.
He noted that while ‘some schoolboard meetings have involved altercations with the police,’ those incidents were ‘dealt with effectively.’
Garland issued a memo earlier this week warning parents that they could be prosecuted for violence or threats of violence against education officials
‘Violence, threats of violence, and other criminal behavior are always wrong.’
McConnell then pivoted to raising concerns over threats of violence experienced by the anti-CRT parents that Garland’s memo targets.
Using the example of Loudon County, Virginia – pointing out it’s in Garland’s own ‘backyard’ – McConnell described ‘shocking efforts’ by public officials to intimidate parents who he claimed merely ‘want a better education for their children.’
One Loudon County schoolboard member, he noted, went so far as to join a Facebook group ‘that compiled a list of parents opposed to Critical Race Theory and discussed hacking their websites.’
Furthermore the Loudon County Prosecutor was also part of the group, McConnell said, making ‘legal accountability difficult.’
‘It’s exactly this kind of intimidation of private citizens by government officials that our federal civil rights laws were designed to prevent,’ he said.
He asked that Garland answer a series of questions on his memo, including what he means by ‘harassment’ and ‘intimidation’ on part of the parents.
‘In your view, is an effort to recall a schoolboard member or to challenge her policies publicly ever an instance of an “effort to intimidate individuals based on their views”?’
my Jahr sings the Star Spangled Banner after a Loudoun County School Board meeting was halted by the school board because the crowd refused to quiet down. McConnell called the area Garland’s ‘backyard’
‘Why, in your view, are state and local law enforcement not adequately equipped to deal with any violence or threats that may arise from schoolboard protests?’
He also questioned what, if anything, Garland is doing to investigate incidents like the one in Loudon County in which he claims government officials tried to ‘abridge the free speech of citizens.’
McConnell also asked that Garland provides any communications he had with his deputies in the DOJ as well as national teachers’ groups before releasing the memo.
Garland’s order was spurred by the National School Board Association (NSBA) begging the Biden administration to intervene in the ‘immediate threat’ posed to education officials by anti-CRT and anti-mask protesters.
‘Coupled with attacks against school board members and educators for approving policies for masks to protect the health and safety of students and school employees, many public school officials are also facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula,’ the letter reads.
The NSBA compared such activism to domestic terrorism and even referenced the controversial PATRIOT Act, which vastly expanded the federal government’s surveillance scope in the name of national security.
AG Merrick Garland issued this memo warning parents that they will face prosecution for protesting against schools and teachers in a way the government deems to be threatening
In addition to McConnell several other Republican lawmakers also condemned Garland’s memo.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to Garland on Thursday demanding the DOJ doesn’t ‘interfere with the rights of parents to come before schoolboard and speak with educators about their concerns, whether regarding coronavirus-related measures, the teaching of critical race theory in schools, sexually explicit books in schools, or any other topic.’
They called the NSBA’s PATRIOT Act reference ‘entirely inappropriate.’
‘It is not appropriate to use the awesome powers of the federal government – including the PATRIOT Act, a statute designed to thwart international terrorism – to quash those who question local school boards,’ they wrote.
‘Violence and true threats of violence should have no place in our civic discourse, but parents should absolutely be involved in public debates over what and how our public schools teach their children, even if those discussions get heated.’
The letter was signed by ranking member Senator Chuck Grassley, as well as all of the Republicans that make up the Judiciary Committee’s minority: Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley, Michael Lee, John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Ben Sasse, Tom Cotton, John Kennedy and Thom Tillis.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the DOJ for comment on both letters.
The GOP barrage against Garland continued into Friday afternoon, when a group of 10 additional Senate Republicans sent a letter condemning Garland’s ‘witch hunt’ against parents.
‘Parents often vehemently protect their children and have the absolute right to dissent when they believe their own children’s wellbeing is threatened,’ the group led by Senator Roger Marshall wrote.
‘It is not the job of the federal government to institute a witch hunt against parents effectively penalizing them by investigating dissent.’