TOPEKA – (October 19, 2021) – Directing FBI agents across the country to monitor school board meetings sends a threatening message from the federal government and has a chilling effect on free speech rights that must not be continued, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said.
Schmidt joined a 17-state effort calling on the Biden administration to withdraw a directive that the FBI engage in monitoring local school board meetings and actions. The attorneys general outlined their concerns in a letter sent yesterday to President Biden and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“For many Americans, their first, live personal interaction with their government is with their local public school board,” the attorneys general wrote. “Parents or other taxpayers may be aggrieved by what happened at school and/or they want more information about some issue or school practice. … We as a country should celebrate their participation in our system of self-government, not silence them by accusing them of ‘domestic terrorism’ and threaten them with the prospect of the FBI knocking on their door to investigate their activities.”
On Oct. 4, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memorandum decrying a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.” The Biden administration, however, has provided no convincing evidence of any “spike” in threats against school personnel, and in any event such conduct would ordinarily be effectively handled by local law enforcement without federal involvement. The specter of federal involvement instead seems designed to chill the lawful dissent of parents who express concerns about their children’s education at local public school board meetings.
The Department of Justice memo echoed a National School Board Association (NSBA) letter sent Sept. 29 to the Biden administration that lamented the rise of parents pushing back against divisive ideologies, including critical race theory. The NSBA letter raised the specter of local protests rising to the level of “domestic terrorism.”
The attorneys general letter reiterates the primary role that parents have in directing the education of their children and asks Biden and Garland to “immediately withdraw the October 4, 2021 Memorandum, to immediately cease any further actions designed to intimidate parents from expressing their opinions on the education of their children, and demand that you respect their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and to raise their children.”
A copy of the letter is available at https://bit.ly/3ATdqDB.