by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Last week, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) declared that “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat” due to a “growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation” presumably from parents dissatisfied with the actions of school board members and administrators.
NSBA officials asked the Biden administration to intervene, reasoning that “the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” The scope of their request is extraordinary.
As such, NSBA requests a joint expedited review by the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, and Homeland Security, along with the appropriate training, coordination, investigations, and enforcement mechanisms from the FBI, including any technical assistance necessary from, and state and local coordination with, its National Security Branch and Counterterrorism Division, as well as any other federal agency with relevant jurisdictional authority and oversight. Additionally, NSBA requests that such review examine appropriate enforceable actions against these crimes and acts of violence under the Gun-Free School Zones Act, the PATRIOT Act in regards to domestic terrorism, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights statute, the Conspiracy Against Rights statute, an Executive Order to enforce all applicable federal laws for the protection of students and public school district personnel, and any related measure.
Yesterday, they got their wish. Attorney General Merrick Garland “directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to meet in the next 30 days with federal, state, Tribal, territorial and local law enforcement leaders to discuss strategies for addressing this disturbing trend.”
It is unclear why state and local law enforcement agencies cannot address credible threats against school officials. I suspect that these are isolated incidents that do not necessitate the full force of the United States Department of Justice.
At a press conference two weeks ago, Gov. Roy Cooper mentioned also concerns over threats, bullying, and intimidation at school board meetings. At least he did not ask the federal government to intervene or claim that incidents are “equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”