In response to a memo issued Oct. 4 by Attorney General Merrick Garland that instructs the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to address threats against school administrators, Texas senators accused the Department of Justice of targeting people with opposing political views.
Garland’s memo directs the FBI and U.S. attorneys to “facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff, and… open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response.”
“In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools. While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views,” the first paragraph of the one-page memo reads.
Since its publication, the memo has been the subject of intense Republican backlash. Three days after its publication, the eleven Republican lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee wrote a condemning letter. Then, in yesterday’s hearing, Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn directed an extensive line of questioning at Garland, describing the publication as “an abusive memo targeting parents.”
“Law is based on facts. It is impartial, it is not used as a tool of political retribution,” Cruz said in a Senate hearing Wednesday. “This memo was not law. This memo was politics.”
Cruz was joined in his line of questioning by fellow Texas Sen. Cornyn.
“Well, Mr. Attorney General, you’ve acknowledged that parents have a right, a constitutional right to be heard on the education of their children in public schools,” Cornyn said. “Can you imagine the sort of intimidation, the sort of bullying impact that a memorandum from the Department of Justice would have and how that would chill the willingness of parents to exercise their rights under threat of federal prosecution?”
In his response, Garland said that he had based his memo on a letter from the National School Boards Association, which asked the Biden administration for help addressing harassment and threats directed at staff and board members over masking requirements and discussions of race in public schools.