A group of House Republicans is calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to rescind his controversial memo directing the FBI to police school board meetings, after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) disavowed its letter characterizing aggrieved parents as “domestic terrorists.”
Garland admitted during the hearing that he had taken the action in response to the NSBA’s letter, and after seeing news reports about alleged threats to school boards across the nation. He also testified that he communicated with the White House about the letter before he issued the intimidating memo.
Nineteen Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, who challenged Garland over his memo during an oversight hearing last week, signed a letter on Monday urging him to revoke it.
#BREAKING: Judiciary Republicans demand Attorney General Garland withdraw school board memo.
RT if you think he should! pic.twitter.com/fo6q1MzGFP
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) October 25, 2021
“During your testimony, you sidestepped the obvious effect of your ill-conceived memorandum and the chilling effect that invoking the full weight of the federal law enforcement apparatus would have on parents’ protected First Amendment speech,” the Republicans’ letter reads.
“Parents have an undisputed right to direct the upbringing and education of their children, especially as school boards attempt to install controversial curricula,” they added. “Local law enforcement—and not the FBI—are the appropriate authorities to address any local threats or violence.”
The school board union collaborated with the White House before sending its incendiary letter calling on the FBI to investigate parents as potential domestic terrorists, according to NSBA emails.
The emails, obtained by Parents Defending Education through public records requests and reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon, reveal that the National School Board Association’s president and CEO sent the letter to Biden on Sept. 29 without approval from the organization’s board. The letter said that the acts of some parents at school board meetings across the country could be considered “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
The emails also show that the White House asked the association for examples of threats against school board members days before Attorney General Merrick Garland created a task force of officials from the FBI and the Justice Department to determine how to prosecute alleged crimes at school board meetings.
The attorney general admitted last week, the DOJ and the White House discussed the NSBA letter before Garland issued his memo.
During a House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, asked Garland if it was just a coincidence the NSBA sent a letter to Biden and just five days later Garland issued his memo. The Biden attorney general admitted the letter was a “relevant factor” in his memo.
“I am sure that the communication from the National Association of School Boards [sic] was discussed between the White House and the Justice Department, and that’s perfectly appropriate,” Garland said.
The internal NSBA emails reveal that some board members objected to sending the Sept. 29 letter—which was signed by NSBA’s top officials, CEO Chip Slaven and president Viola Garcia—to President Joe Biden.
Following the letter, Garcia was tapped by the Biden Department of Education to serve on a federal board that tracks student progress, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Garcia’s position on the board could raise questions about whether the appointment was linked to her advocacy work at the National School Board Association. Emails reported by the Washington Free Beacon show Garcia coordinated with the Biden White House and Department of Education in the weeks before releasing the controversial letter. “These are troubling times. NSBA has been engaged with the White House and the Department of Education on these and other issues related to the pandemic for several weeks now,” Garcia wrote in an Oct. 2 email obtained by the group Parents Defending Education.
The group ended up withdrawing its letter the day after Garland’s testimony.
In a letter to NSBA members on Friday, the group said that “we regret and apologize for the letter.”
The letter continued: “To be clear, the safety of school board members, other public school officials, and students is our top priority, and there remains important work to be done on this issue. However, there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter.”
Earlier this month, the Biden Department of Education tapped the president of the National School Board Association to serve on a federal board that tracks student progress,
Meanwhile, Scott Smith, the Loudoun County father of a teenage girl who was raped by a teenage boy who was allowed in the girl’s room because he “identifies” as female, is demanding a public apology from the NSBA after he was described as a “domestic terrorist” in their letter.
“The NSBA defamed me, impugning my reputation and that of other concerned parents who dared challenge our local school board. I am owed an apology and I deserve one,“ Smith said in a press release. “I demand the NSBA retract its statement that I am a ‘domestic terrorist,’ or I will have no other choice but to seek a court to do it for them.”
The Stanley Law Group’s Letter to National School Boards Association, October 25, 2021 pic.twitter.com/hiF7ytfICK
— Autumn Johnson (@LegallyAutumn) October 25, 2021
The GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee wrote in their letter to Garland: “The NSBA expressed regret about and formally apologized for its letter to President Biden. Because the NSBA letter was the basis for your memorandum and given that your memorandum has been and will continue to be read as threatening parents and chilling their protected First Amendment rights, the only responsible course of action is for you to fully and unequivocally withdraw your memorandum immediately.”
Rep. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Wis.) added on Twitter Monday: In light of the National School Association’s apology for targeting parents in their letter to the White House, AG Garland must also revoke his school board memo issued at the behest of the NSBA. Parents should not ever be threatened when advocating for their student.”