The Federal Bureau of Investigation opened several investigations into parents protesting policies in their local school boards, labeling them with a threat tag the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division created, according to House Republicans.
Republicans of the House Judiciary Committee published their findings in a letter Republican House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio sent Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland. The findings were made with the help of information from whistleblowers.
The letter presented information suggesting that the FBI “labeled at least dozens of investigations into parents with a threat tag created by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division to assess and track investigations related to school boards.”
According to the letter, the cases the FBI monitored and tagged with the new threat tag — EDUOFFICIALS — included those of “parents upset about mask mandates and state elected officials who publicly voiced opposition to vaccine mandate.”
Jordan pointed out that the findings made by the Republicans of the House Judiciary Committee ran contrary to Garland’s sworn testimony before the committee.
According to the letter, in the committee hearing, Garland “denied that the Department of Justice or its components were using counterterrorism statutes and resources to target parents at school board meetings.”
“We have learned from brave whistleblowers that the FBI has opened investigations with the EDUOFFICIALS threat tag in almost every region of the country and relating to all types of educational settings,” the representative from Ohio wrote.
“The information we have received shows how, as a direct result of your directive, federal law enforcement is using counterterrorism resources to investigate protected First Amendment activity.”
According to the Washington Examiner, Garland in October instructed the FBI and the Justice Department to organize a joint task force that would investigate supposed threats against members of school boards.
Garland’s October directive came after the National School Boards Association sent a letter a month earlier to the Biden administration, asking them to investigate parents protesting at school board meetings as domestic terrorists under the Patriot Act.
Facing backlash, the NSBA apologized for sending the letter and withdrew it a week after sending it, the Washington Examiner reported. Even though the NSBA backtracked on its letter, Garland argued that his October memo still had relevance, the outlet reported.
Jordan’s letter provided examples of cases with the tag investigated by the FBI. “This whistleblower information is startling,” the representative wrote.
“Although FBI agents ultimately—and rightly—determined that these cases did not implicate federal criminal statutes, the agents still exerted their limited time and resources investigating these complaints,” Jordan wrote. “This valuable law-enforcement time and resources could have been expended on real and pressing threats.”
In one case, a mother told a local school board “we are coming for you.” Someone then complained about the incident through the National Threat Operations Center, alleging that the mother was a gun owner who belonged to a “right wing mom’s group” called “Moms for Liberty.”
Following the complaint, an FBI agent interviewed the mother, only to find out that her statement was a warning that her organization would seek “to replace the school board with new members through the electoral process,” Jordan’s letter stated.
“Parents have an undisputed right to direct the upbringing and education of their children, which includes voicing their strong opposition to controversial curricula at local schools,” Jordan said.
“This whistleblower information raises serious concerns that your October 4 memorandum will chill protected First Amendment activity as parents will rightfully fear that their passionate advocacy for their children could result in a visit from federal law enforcement.
“You have refused to rescind your October 4 memorandum and its anti-parent directives. In light of this new whistleblower information, we again call on you to rescind your October 4 memorandum,” Jordan wrote.