DOJ takes action on 3 fronts to protect educators from growing hostility

'Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,'  U.S. attorney general says
By: | October 5, 2021
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Powerful law enforcement agencies including the FBI have stepped in to shield educators who are facing increasing threats over masks, critical race theory and other issues.

The FBI and U.S. attorneys’ offices around the country will begin working with state and local law enforcement agencies on strategies to protect school board members, administrators and teachers who’ve faced physical violence and intimidation in recent months, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced this week.

“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” Garland said in a news release. “Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety.”

The Justice Department also announced a series of additional steps to counter the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel:

  •  The agency will launch a task force, consisting of U.S. Department of Justice officials from several divisions, including the FBI, to determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute crimes against school district staff and how to assist local law enforcement when threats of violence do not constitute federal crimes.
  • The justice department will offer specialized training to school boards and administrators to help them and other potential victims understand the type of behavior that constitutes threats, how to report threatening conduct to law enforcement, and how to capture and preserve evidence of threatening conduct to aid in the investigation and prosecution of crimes.

Threats of violence against school board members and district staff can be reported to the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center via its national tip line (1-800-CALL-FBI) and online through the FBI website.

Last week, the National School Boards Association called on the Biden administration to stop the threats and violence directed at public education leaders.

The administration’s response this week sends “a strong message to individuals with violent intent who are focused on causing chaos, disrupting our public schools, and driving wedges between school boards and the parents, students, and communities they serve,” Chip Slaven, the school boards association’s interim executive director and CEO, said in a statement.

Acts of intimidation are interfering with school operations and have even led to school lockdowns, Slaven said.

“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,” Slaven said. “We need to get back to the work of meeting all students’ needs and making sure that each student is prepared for a successful future. That’s what school board members and parents care about.”