A group of Republican House members is demanding Attorney General Merrick Garland retract a memo directing the FBI to investigate threats against school officials — because the organization that prompted the directive has apologized, The Post has learned.
Garland released his memo on Oct. 4 after the National School Boards Association sent a letter to President Biden in late September voicing concerns about parents allegedly intimidating school board members, teachers and other school officials over issues from mask mandates to critical race theory teachings.
The NSBA letter characterized the protests as “domestic terrorism.”
But the NSBA board of directors on Friday said “we regret and apologize for the letter” that was co-signed by association CEO Chip Slaven and President Viola Garcia.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) noted the apology in the letter to Garland, a copy of which was obtained by The Post.
“Because the NSBA letter was the basis for your memorandum and given that your memorandum has been and will continue to be read as threatening parents and chilling their protected First Amendment rights, the only responsible course of action is for you to fully and unequivocally withdraw your memorandum immediately,” Jordan wrote.
The letter was signed by a number of GOP members of Congress, including Reps. Darrell Issa of California, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Matt Gaetz of Florida.
Jordan called Garland’s testimony at a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week “troubling.”
“You acknowledged that you issued the unusual directive soon after reading about the thinly sourced letter sent by the [NSBA] to President Biden and not because of any specific request from state or local law enforcement,” Jordan said in the letter.
He also said the attorney general “appeared to be surprised” that the memo included the involvement of the National Security Division of the FBI, which prosecutes terrorism cases.
And Jordan said Garland was “completely unaware” of a widely reported sexual assault case in a Loudoun County, Va., school that prompted the father of the victim to confront the local school board.
Jordan said the NSBA letter cited the father’s actions as “domestic terrorism.”
During Garland’s testimony, Jordan also said the attorney general “sidestepped” the chilling effect the directive would have on parents’ First Amendment right to free speech.
“Parents have an undisputed right to direct the upbringing and education of their children, especially as school boards attempt to install controversial curricula. Local law enforcement — and not the FBI — are the appropriate authorities to address any local threats or violence,” Jordan said.
At the House Judiciary Committee hearing last Thursday, Jordan accused the Justice Department of creating a “snitch line” to inform on parents.
“When the attorney general, the United States sets up a snitch line on parents, Americans aren’t going to tolerate it,” he said.
“I think they’re gonna stand up to this accelerated march to communism that we now see America is going to fight the good fight, they’re going to finish the course, they’re going to keep the faith, because Americans value freedom,” said Jordan, the top Republican on the panel.
Garland was asked at the hearing whether parents questioning the decisions of their local school board should be considered as engaging in “domestic terrorism.”
“I want to be clear, the Justice Department supports and defends the First Amendment right of parents to complain as viscerally as they wish, about the education of their children, about the curriculum taught in their schools,” Garland said, noting that his memo did not use the words “domestic terrorism.”
“I can’t imagine any circumstance in which the Patriot Act would be used in the circumstances of parents complaining about their children, nor can I imagine a circumstance where they would be labeled as domestic terrorism,” he added.
The NSBA board said the safety of school officials and students “is our top priority.”
“However, there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter,” they said.