Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed back on Attorney General Merrick Garland and his memorandum instructing federal law enforcement officials to work with local police to investigate alleged threats against school board members and teachers made by parents.
In comments on Wednesday during a press conference in Brevard County, the Republican governor accused the Biden administration of trying to “squelch dissent” while adding he won’t have any part in it and won’t tolerate such treatment of Florida parents.
“The Florida governor denounced the memo, calling it an intimidation tactic meant to scare parents out of sticking up for their children’s health and education over policies such as forced masking and curricula involving Critical Race Theory,” The Daily Wire reported.
The governor’s pushback comes following complaints to the Biden administration by a national school board organization that implored President Biden to task federal law enforcement entities with probing parental behavior at some school board meetings to see if it rose to the level of “domestic terrorism.”
Garland instructed the FBI to begin work on curbing “harassment” and “threats of violence” against school administrators after the department said the number of such incidents has risen in the past year. The move comes just a few days after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) pushed Biden to take action against the rise in “malice, violence, and threats,” which the association said could constitute “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
“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 NSBA President Viola Garcia and NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven noted.
“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 said.
Garland said that the DoJ would not abide by such parental threats.
“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland in an Oct. 4 statement. “Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety.”
“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,” Garland noted further in a memo. “In the coming days, the Department will announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.”
DeSantis said that such talk amounts to undue, improper, and uncalled-for pressure on parents to remain silent rather than attend meetings and voice their complaints.
“To mobilize the FBI, there’s no need for it, of course. There’s not been any sense that somehow [Florida law enforcement] weren’t going to do their job if need be,” DeSantis said. “The reason to do that is to intimidate parents, is to squelch dissent, is to have them shut up and just take it even when they strongly disagree with what may be happening with their kid.”
“We’re not going to let the federal government come in and impose bad policies or mandates on Floridians,” he continued. “We’re going to make sure we’re protecting parents and students in the state of Florida. We’re not going to let the Department of Justice be weaponized to infringe First Amendment rights of parents. We are going to fight to preserve the rights of parents. And as we continue to see the use of fear and intimidation to suppress opposition to the regime, we’re going to find new ways to be able to empower parents’ rights to decide what is best for their children.
He added: “Parents across the state should know that their freedoms are going to be protected here and that the state of Florida has your back.”