FBI tracking threats against educators after complaints from school boards, leaked email shows

Schools are bearing the brunt of anger over school mask mandates, critical race theory and library books
By: | November 17, 2021
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The F.B.I. is now tracking threats against educators after complaints from school boards about heated and sometimes violent comments made by members of the public at meetings earlier this fall, according to a leaked email.

School boards, superintendents and teachers across the country have borne the brunt of anger over school masks and vaccine mandates, critical race theory and diversity initiatives, LGBTQ+ themes in library books and other cultural and political issues.

The F.B.I. in October created an EDUOFFICIALS “threat tag” to classify reports of harassment or physical violence against administrators, staff, teachers and board members, according to an email sent by the F.B.I.’s criminal and counterterrorism divisions and posted on Twitter by Republic members of the House Judiciary Committee. The threat tag will allow federal authorities to gauge the scope of the problem, determine the motivation for threats against educators and plan enforcement, the memo says.

“We share an obligation to ensure all individuals are able to do their jobs without threats of violence or fear for their safety,” the memo says.

Republicans were angered earlier this fall when U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the U.S. Department of Justice would begin investigating threats made against educators. “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.”

 

Republicans and parent groups, among others, said such efforts would stifle free speech and make it a crime for parents to speak out at school board members.

Garland was responding to a request for help and protection from the National School Boards Association. Though the NSBA later apologized for comparing attacks on school board members to domestic terrorism and hate crimes, several state chapters have threatened to pull out of the organization.

Two parents’ groups have also sued the Justice Department over the potential crackdown.

Threats of violence have spurred boards across the county to take action. A Kentucky school district has restricted parental communications to email, administrators in Virginia may limit who can speak at public meetings and a Florida school board may give each individual just one minute to speak during public comment, Politico reported. In Ohio, prosecutors rebuked, but have decided not to charge, the city of Hudson’s Republic mayor after he allegedly demanded the local school board resign “over false allegations of allowing child pornography into a college-level class,” the Akron Beacon Journal reported.

The mayor’s comments sparked a wave of threats against educators, according to the newspaper.