U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, is slamming President Joe Biden for directing the Justice Department to address what Attorney General Merrick Garland labeled as a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers and staff.”
Garland issued a memo Oct. 4 informing leading federal law enforcement agents — including the director of the FBI, the assistant attorney general overseeing the DOJ’s criminal division and federal prosecutors — to prepare to implement a “series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.”
The measures, which are set to be unveiled “in the coming days,” will feature collaboration with local leaders. Garland in the memo directed the FBI to begin meeting with those leaders within 30 days to “facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.” The meetings are also intended to “open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response.”
Garland’s memo came four days after the National School Boards Association wrote a letter to Biden calling on him to take action against the “immediate threat” educators face, citing flashpoints in California, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Tennessee.
“Coupled with attacks against school board members and educators for approving policies for masks to protect the health and safety of students and school employees, many public school officials are also facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula,” NSBA President Viola Garcia and interim Executive Director Chip Slaven said in the letter. “This propaganda continues despite the fact that critical race theory is not taught in public schools and remains a complex law school and graduate school subject well beyond the scope of a K-12 class.”
The letter said threats against educators “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes” and called on Biden to “investigate, intercept, and prevent the current threats and acts of violence against public school officials.”
Slaven, in a statement released after Garland’s memo, cheered the federal action.
“The U.S. Department of Justice’s swift action in response to NSBA’s request is a strong message to individuals with violent intent who are focused on causing chaos, disrupting our public schools, and driving wedges between school boards and the parents, students, and communities they serve,” he said.
But Lamborn, leading an Oct. 13 letter to Biden featuring 12 other GOP members of Congress, said he viewed the move as a “weaponization of the nation's chief federal law enforcement agency against parents concerned.”
The Colorado Springs Republican played down the threats against schools, saying the NSB could only cite “a handful of examples of alleged ‘extremism’ nationwide” while adding “most examples appear to fall far short of the U.S. government’s definition of domestic terrorism.”
“While we agree that there must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and education leaders as they do their jobs, the examples provided by the NSBA often amounted to mostly shouting and not specific acts of violence against individual board members,” the letter said.
From there, Lamborn pivoted to concern over “a major push” to implement “Marxist” critical race theory and worries that Biden’s administration has been “silent to the harassment, intimidation and even violence associated with Antifa.”
“Americans have a right to speak out and organize in favor or against public policies without fear of being targeted by the federal government,” the letter said. “We are very concerned about your administrations attempt to weaponize the power of the federal government to go after parents, who are simply expressing their First Amendment rights at local school boards meetings.”