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November 02, 2021 | In The News

House Judiciary Republicans launch probe into National School Boards Association communications with DOJ

Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday requested the assistance of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) for their probe into what they called “troubling attempts” by the White House and the Justice Department to target parents.

“We are investigating the troubling attempts by the Department of Justice and the White House to use the heavy hand of federal law enforcement to target concerned parents at local school board meetings and chill their protected First Amendment activity,” began the letter, which was signed by 19 members of Congress and addressed to NSBA president Viola Garcia and other officers of the organization’s board of directors.

The House Judiciary members mentioned the Sept. 29 letter that the NSBA sent asking the Biden administration to review threats and violence against education administrators and schools to determine if they violate the Patriot Act and hate crime laws. The letter said that some “acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials” could amount to domestic terrorism.

The request came amid clashes between angry parents and educators over COVID-19 policies and critical race theory being taught in classrooms.

Days later, on Oct. 4, Attorney General Merrick Garland sent a memo directing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to address the “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence.”

The GOP members also pointed out the evidence that the NBSA was communicating with the Biden administration before the Sept. 29 letter, noting how less than a month later, the Biden administration announced that Garcia had been appointed by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which has oversight over the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

After stoking outrage, the NSBA walked back its rhetoric, saying in an Oct. 22 memo that leaders “regret and apologize for the letter” and that “there was no justification for some of the language” used. Garland has also distanced himself from the letter’s language, though Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee excoriated him for it when he testified Wednesday.

The members of Congress went on to ask the NSBA to offer documents and communications that took place between the organization and the Biden administration in the lead-up to the Sept. 29 letter.

The NSBA was also asked to answer whether it will urge Garland to withdraw or rescind his Oct. 4 memo.