Merrick Garland seeks to tackle threats against school workers: NPR
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United States Attorney General Merrick Garland has called on federal officials to meet with local law enforcement over the next month to discuss strategies to address the increase in “harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers ”in public schools across the country.
The one-page memorandum orders the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s offices to meet with federal, state, tribal, territorial and local law enforcement officials over the next 30 days in hopes of opening up channels of communication for reporting, assessing and responding to threats.
“While lively debate on political issues is protected by our Constitution, this protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views,” Garland wrote, calling the threats against officials of illegal and “contrary to our nation. core values.”
The directive comes amid a wave of confrontations at local school board meetings over topics such as masking, vaccine requirements and how race is taught in schools, and a call for help federal.
In a six-page letter to President Biden last week, the National School Boards Association detailed instances of threats and acts of violence (mostly related to mask warrants) at school board meetings in states such as California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Brunswick. Jersey, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Texas and Virginia.
He says such conduct – whether at local meetings or threats sent by mail and on social media – endangers students and educators and disrupts school district operations, and notes the growing threat of “Hateful extremist organizations showing up at school board meetings”. As NPR’s Anya Kamenetz reported, these protests are increasingly being coordinated by national groups like Let Them Breathe.
“As these malicious acts, violence and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be tantamount to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” wrote the association of school boards, asking the federal government for help in investigating. and prevent them.
Garland’s memorandum also states that the Justice Department will announce more efforts to address the increase in “criminal conduct against school personnel” in the days to come. These should include:
- Establishing a task force to determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute crimes and ways to assist local law enforcement in situations where threats of violence may not constitute federal crimes
- Creating Department of Justice training and guidance for local school boards and school administrators that focus on identifying behaviors that pose a threat, reporting those behaviors to law enforcement and how to seize and retain evidence for further investigation and prosecution.
“The Department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to deter these threats, identify them when they occur and prosecute them where appropriate,” he said.
This story originally published in the Morning edition live blog.