Landmark Legal Foundation’s DOJ
Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) Request and Production
In September of 2021, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to President Biden calling for federal law enforcement intervention into supposed threats made by parents attending school board meetings throughout the country. Parents attending these meetings were expressing their frustrations with issues related to virtual schooling, vaccination requirements, mask mandates and imposed gender curriculum. In almost every instance, these frustrations were expressed within the bounds of the law. Despite this, NSBA stated in its letter that threats made against school officials “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism.”
In response, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memorandum establishing a “Partnership among federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement to address threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.” In the memo, AG Garland stated that DOJ “takes [threats made against school officials] seriously” and would “announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.” (Emphasis added.) Further, AG Garland directed the FBI and the respective United States Attorneys to hold meetings with law enforcement leaders to discuss “threats against [school officials].”
Landmark quickly filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of Justice seeking records relating to these meetings. Landmark wanted to know whether the Biden Administration had politicized law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels. Landmark was also concerned that federal law enforcement intervention would squelch the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment rights to free speech, free expression, and to the individual’s right to petition their government.
See below for documents relating to Landmark’s FOIA.
DOJ October 4 Memo
DOJ Preliminary FOIA Summary Memo
Summary and Analysis of Production:
Records released to Landmark Legal Foundation demonstrate that the National School Board Association’s equating school parents to domestic terrorists and Attorney General Garland’s claims of rising criminal conduct by school parents were both patently false. The outrageous deployment of every single U.S. Attorneys office, every FBI office, and other federal, state, and local law enforcement was an abuse of power and manipulation of law enforcement officials designed to threaten and intimidate parents to “get in line” with the Biden Administration’s education policies.
DOJ’s initial production of 150 pages shows how both the NSBA and the DOJ grossly overreacted. As the records produced by DOJ show, parents attending school board meetings never posed a threat to school board members. The NSBA’s letter was merely a pretext used by the Biden Administration and the DOJ to target concerned parents for opposing mask and vaccine mandates and virtual learning.
Almost all of the of the 93 U.S. Attorney offices – which were compelled to host meetings in response to the Garland’s August 2021 memorandum – reported that they had not seen any problems of the nature described by the school boards association or the attorney general.
There were only three districts that cleared the bar. In Portland, Oregon, the state reported that it was actively monitoring school board meetings using the “Fusion Center” – an entity established under federal law to monitor terrorism. In Tennessee, federal resources were used to address threats made in school board meetings. Finally, in Georgia, the DOJ tasked the FBI’s domestic terrorism squad to “take the lead in acting as a point of contact for referrals concerning school violence threats.” The FBI investigated a threat of violence to a local high school being circulated on social media and a press release stated that “many of these threats have been revealed to be hoaxes.”
In meeting after meeting, the remaining law enforcement officials throughout the nation report no threats necessitating federal investigation of individuals attending school board meetings. Hundreds of law enforcement officials at every level attended meetings and repeatedly, stated that there was nothing for the federal government to do.
The records show that AG Garland characterization of a “rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel” was blatantly false. This use of federal criminal investigative resources amounts to a gross abuse of power designed to intimidate and silence opponents of the Biden Administration’s harmful policies.