U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Demands Answers from Merrick Garland

We previously wrote about how the Pennsylvania School Boards Association is speaking out against Attorney General Merrick Garland kowtowing to the unfounded accusations and demands by the National School Boards Association.  A resulting Department of Justice (DOJ) memorandum raised the specter of parents exercising their First Amendment rights at school board meetings being treated as domestic terrorists. Now, other stated-based school boards have joined Pennsylvania.

At least 11 state school board organizations are distancing themselves from a National School Boards Association letter asking President Joe Biden to take action against parents protesting progressive school policies.  . . .

The letters from the state groups recognize the importance of local boards’ role in educating children, with the Virginia group urging educators and school boards to work together and to listen to parents for the “safety and achievement of all students.”

Even other branches of the federal government are calling out the DOJ's unprecedented speech chilling policy. Four commissioners to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland reading in part:

Your memorandum did not cite any specific examples of “harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” that would provide any basis for law enforcement action by the Department. We are concerned that much of what the NSBA calls threats and acts of intimidation—and compares to “domestic terrorism and hate crimes”—can be merely classified as political speech. For example, a parent concerned with a local schoolboard’s policy may portend an electoral challenge against an incumbent schoolboard member. Such a challenge would be well within the parent’s First Amendment rights and well without the Department’s purview as a federal law enforcement agency.

The commissioners concluded by asking the DOJ to prove why their extraordinary attack on free speech is necessary—or even remotely justified.

We now ask you to provide us with specific examples of “harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” that you purport allow for law enforcement action and an explanation of why this is a situation that calls for federal intervention in particular.

Attorney General Garland needs to respond to the state-based school boards and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights commissioners. We don’t think he will, as any just response would include a repudiation of his memorandum that caused this controversy.