Merrick Garland Tackles Threats to Educators Amid Critical Race Theory Furor

Attorney General Merrick Garland is taking aim at intimidation and threats of violence directed at educators and school administrators who are working to give children "a proper education in a safe environment."

Garland issued a memorandum to FBI Director Christopher Wray and federal prosecutors on Monday saying there had been a "disturbing spike" in threats against school personnel and promising to take measures to deal with the issue.

The move from the Department of Justice comes after fraught scenes at school board meetings across the country, with heated exchanges about COVID-19 regulations and Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Some meetings have been subject to protests against mask mandates and other COVID-19 measures, while videos of attendees strongly opposing the teaching of CRT have been widely circulated.

Protesters have disrupted school board meetings in several states and there have been arrests at some meetings, including in Loudoun County, Virginia and Palm Beach County, Florida.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has stressed that CRT is generally taught at the college level and not in elementary, middle or high school.

Garland's memo did not directly refer to school board meetings, CRT or COVID-19, but it did reference "debate about policy matters."

"In recent months, 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," the memo said.

"While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views.

"Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values. 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," it said.

Garland's memo went on: "The Department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate. In the coming days, the Department will announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel."

The DOJ's decision also comes after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) wrote to President Joe Biden on September 29, comparing threats against school personnel to "domestic terrorism."

"As our school boards continue coronavirus recovery operations within their respective districts, they are also persevering against other challenges that
could impede this progress in a number of communities," the NSBA wrote.

"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 six-page letter also said: "As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes."

Merrick Garland Speaks at a News Conference
Attorney General Merrick Garland announces a federal investigation of the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department during a news conference at the Department of Justice on August 5, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Garland issued a memo on Monday saying the Department of Justice would aim tackle threats against school personnel. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images