The FBI has moved ahead with a directive to track threats against teachers and schools boards, even though the National School Boards Association rescinded and apologized for its letter that prompted an attorney general's memo establishing the directive, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Many parents and law enforcement officials fear the directive will target parents properly exercising their rights to protest school rules they disagree with, such as mask mandates or the teaching of critical race theory.
The NSBA sent a Sept. 29 letter to President Joe Biden, asking him to look into acts of "domestic terrorism" at school board meetings, a reference to angry parents who were showing up in various parts of the country to complain, sometimes yelling at school board members, about issues such as mask mandates and critical race theory.
The letter was signed by NSBA CEO Chip Slaven and president Viola Garcia.
That led to an Oct. 4 memo from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland ordering the FBI to aid local officials with threats against school officials. That was followed by an Oct. 20 memo from the heads of the FBI's criminal and counterterrorism divisions which told agents to investigate potential criminal threats, giving them a "threat tag" and allowing them to evaluate the size of the problem, the Journal reported.
News of the memo led the NSBA board to issued a retraction of the letter Oct. 22, saying board members had been unaware of the "domestic terrorism" language used in it.
Nevertheless, the memo itself has remained in effect.
An internal email asks FBI agents "to consider the motivation behind any criminal activity and whether it potentially violates federal law. Agents should tag such threats 'EDUOFFICIALS' to better track them," the Journal reported.
"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," reads the email signed by Timothy Langan, FBI assistant director for counterterrorism, and Calvin Shivers, recently retired assistant director of the bureau’s criminal division, the Journal reported.
A copy of the email was given to Republican lawmakers by an FBI agent who was worried the program could be used against parents who speak out at school board meetings, according to the Journal.
The FBI denied any such concerns, telling the Journal in a statement: "The FBI has never been in the business of investigating parents who speak out or policing speech at school board meetings, and we are not going to start now. We are fully committed to preserving and protecting First Amendment rights, including freedom of speech."
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