Dept. of Justice addresses increase in threats and harassment against school officials and teachers

The room was packed at the West Fargo Public Schools School Board meeting where the board voted...
The room was packed at the West Fargo Public Schools School Board meeting where the board voted to keep masks optional.(Aaron Walling/KVLY)
Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 6:09 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - In a memo sent out by the U.S. Dept. of Justice on Oct. 4, acts of harassment, threats of violence and intimidation efforts towards school board officials, teachers and workers could be investigated by the federal government.

“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in the memo. “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.”

According to Garland’s directions, a task force will be created with members of the D.O.J’s criminal division, national security division, civil rights division, the executive order for U.S. attorneys, the FBI, the community relations service and the office of justice programs.

“Parents play a vital role in their child’s education,” wrote Senator John Hoeven (ND). “They should be able to advocate before their local school board, consistent with their constitutional rights and without threat of investigation by the DOJ.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, issues over masks in schools, mitigation plans and discussion over critical race theory have dominated school board meetings. Groups like Parents Defending Education are opposed to the justice dept. getting involved.

“It is shameful that activists are weaponizing the U.S. Dept. of Justice against parents,” said Nicole Neily, president of the P.D.E, on Twitter. “This is a coordinated attempt to intimidate dissenting voices in the debates surrounding America’s underperforming K-12 education and it will not succeed. We will not be silenced.”

Garland has directed the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to meet this month with federal, state, tribal, territorial and local law enforcement leaders to address these issues.

“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.” said Garland in his Oct. 4 memorandum.

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