Garland stated in a memorandum that there had been a "disturbing spike in harassment and intimidation of school staff, board members, teachers, administrators, and other people involved in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools."
Garland stated that the FBI will work with U.S. Attorneys and Federal, State, Local, Territorial, and Tribal authorities in each District to address the growing problem.
He stated that while spirited debate on policy matters is protected by our Constitution, it does not protect against threats of violence or attempts to intimidate individuals based upon their views.
This action was taken in response to a urgent request made by the National School Boards Association. The group, which includes school board members from across the country, requested federal assistance from President Joe Biden to investigate threats to schools over policies that included mask mandates. They compared the vitriol to domestic terrorism.
The association requested that the federal government investigate any cases in which threats or violence could be considered violations of federal civil rights laws. The association also requested the FBI, Homeland Security, Secret Service, Justice Department and FBI to monitor threats and assess risk to students, educators, board members, and school buildings.
According to the group, a letter addressed to an Ohio school board member stated that "We are coming after You". "You force them to wear masks -- for no other reason than control. You will be punished for this." The member was called "a filthy traitor".
Garland stated that the Justice Department would use its resources and authority to deter the threats and "prosecute them whenever appropriate." The Department will soon announce a number of measures to combat the increase in criminal behavior directed at school personnel.
The majority of school board members are unpaid volunteers. Parents and former teachers step up to help shape school policy, select a superintendent, and review the budget. However, they are now scared at how their jobs have become a culture war battlefield. Many have decided to resign or not seek reelection due to the changing climate.
Chip Slaven (NSBA interim executive Director and CEO) praised the Justice Department for its swift action and warned of the negative impact that intimidation and threats of violence have had on education.
Slaven stated that school board members and other education officials have received threats of death and been harassed online over the past few weeks. The department's actions "are a strong message for individuals with violent intent who are focused upon causing chaos, disrupting public schools, driving wedges between school board members and parents, students, or communities they serve."