US Attorney General Merrick Garland did direct the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement agencies to target parents who advocated for their children at local school board meetings, congressional Republicans claim.
In a formal letter, Reps Mike Johnson and Jim Jordan — ranking members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties — allege that whistleblowers from the DOJ have come forward and confirmed what Republicans have long suspected: that “the Federal Bureau of Investigation has labeled at least dozens of investigations into parents with a threat tag created by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division to assess and track investigations related to school boards.”
Whistleblowers: The FBI has labeled dozens of investigations into parents with a threat tag created by the FBI's Counterterrorism Division pic.twitter.com/STlLdrfbMz
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) May 11, 2022
Though Garland testified under oath last fall that his office had not considered parental involvement at school board meetings a form of domestic terrorism, Johnson and Jordan say that, prompted by the National School Boards Association, the FBI developed the tag EDUOFFICIALS as a “counterterrorism tool” to wield against parents who exercised their First Amendment rights.
According to the letter, most “EDUOFFICIAL” parents either attended local school board meetings or took to social media to express their outrage and concern regarding district COVID policies. For example, two separate FBI field offices opened an investigation into vocal parents who are known gun owners. In one case, an anonymous accuser claimed that a father “fit the profile of an insurrectionist.”
Yet, despite the serious charges leveled against these and other individuals, Johnson and Jordan note that “FBI agents ultimately — and rightly — determined that these cases did not implicate federal criminal statutes.”
Since these parents have committed no crime, Johnson and Jordan have concluded that by activating the FBI against normal parental involvement, AG Garland has attempted to “chill protected First Amendment activity as parents will rightfully fear that their passionate advocacy for their children could result in a visit from federal law enforcement.”