Garland Memo Fallout: RI Assoc. of School Committees To “Coordinate” With FBI And Gather Information On Public Meeting “Issues”
October 5 email to RI school committee members: “RIASC will contact our US Attorney as well as the FBI and coordinate with them on what steps if any, we need to take. In the interim, please apprise me of any issues you have had during your Committee meetings on topics such as mask mandates, issues with equity education, rights for LGBTQ, and BIOPC students.”
Protests against Critical Race teaching and COVID-related mandates have energized parents around the country. The news headlines have been dominated by videos of parents objecting to they way school and teacher union officials have treated the community.
There have been no riots, no looting, and officials have not been chased into bathrooms. Rather, there has been heated discussion, often precipitated by school board officials trying to silence protesters. There are very few reported cases of violence or threats, and when such incidents have been reported, they have been handled by local law enforcement.
Nonetheless, there has been a concerted effort to portray these parent protestors as terrorists and extremists. The National School Boards Association sent a letter on September 29, 2021, seeking federal intervention and law enforcement action against people protesting against Critical Race Theory teaching and COVID-related school mandates, asserting that protests had risen to the level of threats that needed to be treated as “equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
The letter cited only a small number of threats nationally, but argued that federal intervention was needed because the alleged disruption affected the delivery of services funded by federal tax dollars.
In response, on October 4, 2021, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a Memorandum instructing the FBI and other federal agencies to coordinate with other federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. The DOJ issued a press release asserting: “Citing an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools, today Attorney General Merrick B. Garland directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to meet in the next 30 days with federal, state, Tribal, territorial and local law enforcement leaders to discuss strategies for addressing this disturbing trend. These sessions will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment and response by law enforcement.”
A concern expressed by many, including by me, was that this federal intervention was an attempt to chill lawful protests and speech. Senator Josh Hawley made this point when questioning a Justice Department official:
.@HawleyMO: If this [Garland memo] isn't a deliberate attempt to chill parents from showing up at school board meetings… I don't know what is.
…You're using the FBI to intervene in school board meetings. pic.twitter.com/RT1f1mrwBL
— Abigail Marone 🇺🇸 (@abigailmarone) October 5, 2021
The Garland memo already has prompted action in Rhode Island to gather information on “issues” raised at school committee public meetings, confirming the concerns that lawful protest would be reported to the FBI and other law enforcement as part of this national monitoring effort.
The Rhode Island Association of School Committees (RIASC) acted on the Garland October 4 memo early in the morning of October 5. On October 5, 2021, at 8:18 a.m., RIASC forwarded to local Rhode Island school committee officials an article from Politico about the Garland Memo, “Garland taps FBI in response to ‘disturbing spike’ in threats against educators.”
We have a copy of the email, sent to over a dozen local school committee officials, which states that RIASC would be contacting the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island and the FBI to “coordinate with them” and asking that the officials report to him “any issues you have had during your Committee meetings” on certain topics.
Here is the full text of the October 5, 2021, 8:18 a.m. email:
Last week the National School Boards Association sent a letter to President Biden, decrying the threatening behavior of some public members attending school board meetings. NSBA requested that the President direct the Justice Department and the FBI to reach out to local leaders about ways to address the threatening behavior.
RIASC will contact our US Attorney as well as the FBI and coordinate with them on what steps if any, we need to take.
In the interim, please apprise me of any issues you have had during your Committee meetings on topics such as mask mandates, issues with equity education, rights for LGBTQ, and BIOPC students.
Rhode Island Association of School Committees
I reached out to Duffy by email, asking the following questions:
Can you explain (1) whether you have reached out to the US Attorney in Rhode Island and/or the FBI or local law enforcement yet, and if so, what you reported and what advice you have received as to monitoring school board interactions with the public, (2) whether any of the RIASC members and/or persons you emailed have provided you with information in response to your email, and if so, what “issues” or problems they have identified, and (3) whether you had any additional communications with school board officials or others since that email regarding possible law enforcement involvement, and if so, what those communications have been.
As of this writing, I have not received a response.
RIASC’s actions in response to Garland’s memo confirm concerns that lawful and constitutionally protected speech would be reported to law enforcement. Even if law enforcement takes no action, just knowing that the federal government has instituted a monitoring process and that local officials are part of that process will have a chilling effect on parents protesting to protect their children.
[Featured Image: Rhode Island mom Nicole Solas addressing South Kingstown Rhode Island School Committee, via YouTube]DONATE
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