WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Attorney General Merrick Garland was grilled for hours by lawmakers Thursday as he defended a recent Department of Justice decision to monitor threats of violence against local school officials.
“Will FBI agents be attending local school board meetings?” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, asked.
“No. FBI agents will not be attending local school board meetings and there’s nothing in this memo to suggest that,” Garland answered.
At the hearing, Garland told skeptical Republicans his new directive does not target parents exercising their first amendment rights.
“I do not believe that parents who testify, speak, argue with, complain about school boards and schools should be classified as domestic terrorists,” Garland said. “This is not about what happens inside school board meetings, it’s only about threats of violence.”
The directive came after groups like the National School Boards Association asked the DOJ to protect school officials, following threats over mask mandates and school curriculum.
“In California a parent verbally assaulted a principal and physically attacked a teacher,” said Rep. Theodore E. Deutch, D-Fla. “A fist fight broke out after a school board meeting in Missouri.”
Democrats say the DOJ was right to step in.
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa., says some of the incidents “have crossed well over the line of protected free speech … and have become criminal conduct.”
Republicans argue the department overstepped its authority.
“They’re going to open up a snitch line on parents,” Jordan said.
Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., says the problem should be left solely to local law enforcement.
“To go forth and call for a nationwide dragnet led by FBI agents is very troubling,” Bishop said.