The Biden administration’s legal assault on concerned parents of school-aged children is quickly turning into a political education for the White House.
On Monday the Justice Department announced that Attorney General Garland directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to conduct meetings with federal, state, tribal, territorial and local law enforcement leaders to discuss strategies for addressing an alleged “increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools.” The DOJ also noted “additional efforts” would be pursued, including a broad-based task force (including the National Security Division) that is being formed to “determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute these crimes,” or to assist local law enforcement “where threats of violence may not constitute federal crimes.”
Garland’s memo was an apparent response to a request from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that the Biden administration classify “these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials” as a form of “domestic terrorism” and prosecute those found guilty under the PATRIOT Act and federal hate crimes legislation.
Calling parents exercising their right to confront smug educrats at public hearings “domestic terrorism” would be laughable if it wasn’t another example of the concerted attempt by progressives to criminalize dissent from their radical program. And it is alarming that these opponents of the First Amendment appear to have Joe Biden’s backing.
Using the FBI to police local school board meetings is a disturbing example of federal overreach. One can imagine what the Justice Department’s “additional efforts” could include – surveillance, subpoenas, infiltration, questioning, intimidation, entrapment, enlisting informants, rifling through emails and financial records, the full panoply of investigative methods usually reserved for organized crime mobsters or genuine threats to national security. These methods were never ever intended to be used against parents alarmed that their impressionable middle schoolers are being exposed to graphic sexual material.
The NSBA’s attitude seems to be typical of the education mandarins who are not accustomed to being challenged and are convinced that they know best what children need. Whether it is critical race theory, explicit sexual techniques, pandemic restrictions, math being racist or general anti-Americanism, parents and taxpayers are supposed to just shut up and let the public education establishment mold their kids into compliant little cogs in the machine.
Groups like the NSBA form an important part of the Democratic base, and for years progressive educators have been crafting curricula to indoctrinate children with their worldview. Yet during the pandemic, many parents were exposed via Zoom to what was being taught behind closed doors, which has sparked the current outpouring of concern and civic involvement.
Met with pushback, educators called in the feds, and the White House complied. But this attempt to intimidate parents has been met with a barrage of criticism, questions and threats of investigation. Important questions of conflict of interest are being raised regarding Attorney General Garland’s son-in-law Xan Tanner, a co-founder of Panorama Education, a consultancy that has pulled down multi-million dollar contracts with schools to “support equity professional development for school teams, and social-emotional staff to work directly with departments and school-based teams.” Panorama appears to be one of the many companies formed to take advantage of the flood of cash directed towards supporting the woke education bureaucracy. Perhaps a special task force should be assembled to investigate this waste of taxpayer money.
The White House may soon regret going down the road of diverting the FBI from more important law enforcement issues to harass parents. Joe Biden’s sagging approval ratings are already a drag on Democratic down-ballot political fortunes, and this issue strikes at the heart of family life in politically competitive suburban districts. It is bad politics to side against activists in the sensible center.
The impact may first be felt in the surprisingly competitive Virginia gubernatorial race, where Democratic nominee and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe stumbled in a debate by declaring, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin pounced on McAuliffe’s tone-deaf statement, making the school curriculum issue a potentially deciding factor in the race. McAuliffe complained in a recent Zoom call with supporters that Biden’s weak numbers are hurting his chances in November, but the former governor is doing his best to lose all on his own and has yet to denounce the FBI’s new anti-parent mission.
Inserting federal law enforcement into local school matters further makes the case for systematic reforms of the politicized FBI and the Justice Department. The next Congress – presumably Republican – should closely investigate how this program was implemented, which parents were subjected to FBI harassment, and exposing the links between policymakers and education pressure groups. The next president – probably also Republican — should move swiftly to clean out those bureaucrats and agents who have been nurtured in the kind of toxic environment that views concerned parents as national security threats. It is increasingly clear who the real domestic terrorists are.
Chris Farrell is director of investigations and research for Judicial Watch, a nonprofit government watchdog. He is a former military intelligence officer.