On Tuesday, House Republicans released an October 20 FBI internal memo which revealed that the FBI had instructed agents to apply a “threat tag” to all investigations or threat assessments directed specifically at education officials. The tag reads “EDUOFFICIALS,” and House GOP members are looking to United States Attorney General Merrick Garland for an explanation.
In late September, the National School Board Association sent a letter to the White House expressing concern regarding angry parents at school board meetings. Many of these angry parents were located in Loudoun County, VA; they were upset over the curriculum (which they believed embraced Critical Race Theory) as well as an alleged mishandling of a sexual assault said to have occurred on a Loudoun County campus.
The White House responded within days, and AG Garland allegedly issued a memo in which he promised to investigate parents the NSBA believed posed a physical threat to school board members and other education officials.
During October, AG Garland appeared before a Senate committee and was asked about the memo, which Senators Ted Cruz and others stated included language that referred to these angry parents as “domestic terrorists.” Garland denied the parents were labeled as such. Garland also said that parents were not being targeted as a response to the NSBA request.
However, the email provided to House GOP members by a whistleblower shows that the agency had created a threat tag in early to mid-October to aid in investigating and assessing the potential threat.
The email states, “The purpose of the threat tag is to help scope this threat on a national level, and provide an opportunity for comprehensive analysis of the threat picture for effective engagement with law enforcement partners at all levels.”
The email further instructs agents to consider not only the motivation behind the potential threat and whether the “criminal activity” being investigated is a violation of any federal laws.
On Tuesday, ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) tweeted, “Merrick Garland testified that the FBI wasn’t targeting parents; we know the FBI is “tagging” parents they consider threatening. The Attorney General has some explaining to do.”
Outspoken Republican Senator Josh Hawley (R-OH) also took to Twitter to express his thoughts on the whistleblower email: “If this is accurate, parents are getting the domestic-terrorist treatment after all.”
Political pundits believe that the outrage expressed by parents had a direct effect on the recent Virginia gubernatorial elections held earlier this month. The parents in Loudoun County have been involved in heated debates with the local school board for many months over a curriculum they believed was promoting teaching Critical Race Theory. School board members claimed this was not the case, but parents brought evidence to refute the board’s claims. Fight for Schools, a parents’ group headed by Ian Prior, had appeared at many meetings calling for school board members to resign.
In June, an alleged cover-up of a sexual assault on one of the Loudoun County School campuses drew the ire of parents when they learned that the alleged perpetrator had been allowed to transfer to another school within the district quietly. The father of the initial victim (NOTE: the accused has been convicted of the assault since June) confronted the school board over the handling of the assault. The board had the father arrested, and the arrest made national news.
As the 2021-2022 school year began, parents only grew more frustrated with the curriculum and other complaints they had regarding the school board. This prompted the NSBA to draft the letter to the White House, although there has been no documented violence at any meeting.
The FBI responded to a story broken on Tuesday by Fox News regarding the whistleblower email. The statement said the FBI remains committed to preserving citizens’ rights under the First Amendment; the statement wrapped up by relating that the organization had never been in the business of investigating parents.
Garland testified that his memo instructing the FBI to investigate any possible threats of violence at school board meetings was not intended to label parents as “domestic terrorists.” Republicans have heavily criticized the directive and the Biden Administration, saying that the memo is a “pretext to silence parents” across the United States.