“We view it both remarkable and disturbing that a ‘school board association’ can attempt to undo the United States Constitution in order to immunize government boards from the people’s petitions ‘for redress of their grievances.’ It is more disturbing yet that the Attorney General of the United States dignified the notion with an agreeable pronouncement,” read a Wednesday statement from No Left Turn in Education (NLTE).
NLTE is a relatively new organization started by parent Dr. Elana Yaron-Fischbein. A long list of other groups from various states – Virginia, California, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Rhode Island – signed onto the statement as well.
“I have never advocated violence,” said Shawn McBreairty, who leads the Maine chapter of NLTE.
He added that “[s]chool board members can’t deal with the massive pushback that is occurring in Maine and across our great nation because we don’t want our children turned into little American Communists with our tax dollars! They only want to silence you if you have a dissenting opinion.”
“Any threats of violence, or violent acts against any local school boards should be reported immediately to the local authorities.”
DOJ recently announced it would coordinate a nationwide investigation after the NSBA suggested educators might be encountering domestic terrorism. In it, NSBA referenced several instances of reported violence or intimidation.
“An individual was arrested in Illinois for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct during a school board meeting,” the statement read. “During two separate school board meetings in Michigan, an individual yelled a Nazi salute in protest to masking requirements, and another individual prompted the board to call a recess because of opposition to critical race theory.”
Garland’s memo didn’t use the term “domestic terrorist” and clarified that “spirited debate” was not the target of his probe.
His memo also received praise from Chip Slaven, NSBA interim executive director and CEO.
“The individuals who are intent on causing chaos and disrupting our schools—many of whom are not even connected to local schools—are drowning out the voices of parents who must be heard when it comes to decisions about their children’s education, health, and safety,” said Slaven.
Regardless, his memo has raised concerns among some like Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who worried about DOJ potentially chilling free speech.
“I certainly share your view that threats of violence have no place in this country, but the backdrop of your memo strongly suggests that your concern is not violence, but democratic pushback against critical race theory,” said Hawley.
He pointed to language within the NSBA letter which decried “propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula.” The NASB also asked the Biden administration to consider its powers under the Patriot Act, the sweeping surveillance legislation passed in the aftermath of the attacks on Sept. 11.
Meanwhile, the conservative nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom sent Garland a letter asking him to rescind his memo.
Last week, NLTE joined Parents Defending Education and a slew of other organizations in telling the NSBA they wouldn’t be “bullied.”
“Your members refuse to listen to [citizens’] concerns – and your association has chosen to smear their constituents rather than engage with them in good faith,” it read.
“It is appalling that you would choose to threaten your fellow Americans for having the courage to hold you accountable for your failures. We will not be bullied. We will not have our speech chilled. We have a constitutional right to petition our elected officials, and we will continue to do so.”
It also accused NSBA of using “a tiny number of minor incidents in order to insinuate” parents are engaging in domestic terrorism.
DOJ and NSBA did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Garland previously said: “In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools.”
Former Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights John Daukas told Fox News: “While the DOJ has an obligation to ensure that any applicable federal laws concerning violence against public officials are not violated, it must not do so in a fashion that chills the free speech rights of concerned parents.”
“Parents have the Constitutional right to petition their government officials in order to protect their children from what parents believe are harmful health measures or biased teaching.”