Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, along with 16 other state attorneys general, penned a letter to President Biden and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding the federal government cease efforts to intimidate parents into silence at school board meetings.
“Your recent action seeks to chill lawful dissent by parents voiced during local school board meetings by characterizing them as unlawful and threatening,” the attorneys general wrote in the letter, led by Rokita.
A memorandum issued by Garland, which was released shortly after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to Biden claiming some clashes between school boards and parents may amount to “domestic terrorism,” calls for the FBI to take the lead on a task force to address threats against school officials, including creating a centralized way to report such threats.
Discussing the memo, the 17 chief law enforcement officers from each state argued that it is “based upon a flawed premise” and violates “First Amendment rights of parents to address school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff on educational matters by seeking to criminalize lawful dissent and intimidate parents into silence.”
In addition to its claim of an increase in the “acts of malice, violence and threats against public school officials,” the NSBA letter also called for the Biden administration to invoke the Patriot Act, which Congress passed to deal with terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
The attorneys general slammed the ideas promulgated in the letter from the NSBA, claiming the association failed to “document a single legitimate instance of violence.”
“To be sure, anyone who attacks or threatens violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, or staff should be prosecuted,” the attorneys general wrote. “However, in its letter demanding action, the NSBA fails to document a single legitimate instance of violence. And even if it did, there are sufficient criminal and civil remedies already available in all 50 states and territories.”
The top law enforcement officers from each of the 17 states also concluded that “the NSBA seems more concerned about suppressing speech with which it disagrees than real threats of violence” and that a “physical assault on a school administrator, board member, teacher, or staff is just that, a criminal assault and will be addressed under state law.”
“Hoosier parents have a First Amendment right to speak their minds to teachers, administrators and school board members,” Rokita said in a statement on the matter. “That’s why I’m demanding that the Biden administration immediately stop attempting to shut down parental participation through scare tactics and intimidation.”