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Ron Johnson Blasts Justice Dept. Probe Into Parental School Board Protests

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson railed at the Justice Department for announcing investigations into parents who are showing up at school board meetings in greater numbers to protest materials presented to their children that are controversial, divisive, and inappropriate.

“What the attorney general is doing … is outrageous. It is such a violation of people’s constitutional rights to petition their government, to free speech,” Johnson said Sunday during an interview on “Cats Roundtable” with host John Catsimatidis on WABC 770 AM.

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Johnson was referencing Attorney General Merrick Garland’s memo to U.S. attorneys and the FBI directing them to investigate claims that parents are acting in threatening ways at school board meetings in protest of curricula like critical race theory and sexually explicit materials their children have discovered in some school libraries.

“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,” Garland wrote in the memo, dated Oct. 4. “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.

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“The Department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate. In the coming days, the Department will announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel,” the memo added.

Garland was reacting to a letter from ranking officials with the National School Board Association, who wrote to President Joe Biden in an appeal for him to ask federal agencies to examine whether parental behavior at meetings rose to the level of “domestic terrorism.”

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“America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation,” the letter from association President Viola Garcia and NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven said.

“Local school board members want to hear from their communities on important issues and that must be at the forefront of good school board governance and promotion of free speech. However, there also must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders as they do their jobs,” the letter continued.

“As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” the officials claimed.

In his interview with Catsimatidis, blasted the memo and said that Democrats use the term “domestic terrorists” to shut down anyone who disagrees with their objectives and policies.

“[Garland] is saying [the parents] are intimidating school board members. No, it is the attorney general of the United States that is intimidating people exercising their rights to free speech and the right to petition their government,” Johnson maintained, going on to encourage parents to continue resisting school boards that want to implement critical race theory and other materials they believe are inappropriate for their children.

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“I hope Americans are paying attention. The good news is that it seems that parents are paying attention … They’re running for school board. I tell people in Wisconsin if you don’t want critical race theory, if you don’t want the 1619 project taught to your children, don’t let it be,” he told the host.

“Show up peacefully. Be respectful. But be insistent. Demand that the school boards follow your wishes. Not the wishes of Joe Biden and his cast of characters,” Johnson said.

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