Oct 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Garland: Federal authorities will respond to threats against school employees

Anti-vaccine protesters stage a protest outside of the San Diego Unified School District office to protest a forced vaccination mandate for students

Anti-vaccine protesters stage a protest outside of the San Diego Unified School District office to protest a vaccination mandate for students. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday directed the FBI and U.S. attorney's offices to meet with law enforcement over the next 30 days to address growing threats to school board members, teachers and other employees in public schools.

Why it matters: The order comes amid a "disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence" directed toward school staff, Garland wrote in the memorandum to federal authorities.

Driving the news: Garland said the FBI would work with U.S. attorneys and federal, state, local and tribal authorities to create response strategies to counter the threats.

  • The Justice Department will also create training programs for school boards and school administrators to educate employees about how best to respond to threats.

The big picture: Garland's memorandum comes less than a week after the National Schools Boards Association sent an urgent request to President Biden, the FBI and the Secret Service asking for their protection against threats stemming from debates over COVID-19 and systemic racism in schools, Axios' Stef Kight reports.

  • The group detailed more than 20 examples of violence, harassment and intimidation in schools, including one instance in which someone yelled a Nazi salute during a Michigan school board meeting.
  • In another instance, an individual was arrested on suspicion of aggravated battery at a meeting in Illinois.

What he's saying: "While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views," Garland wrote.

  • "Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values," he added.
  • "Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety."
  • "The Department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate."

Go deeper: Thousands of school board members urge Biden to protect them.

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