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One day a mother was speaking at a local school board meeting. Shortly after she was answering a call from the FBI. Like dozens of other parents, she had been reported.
Following the announcement of a Department of Justice memorandum addressing alleged threats against school personnel, individuals across the country have been reported to the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center. Tiffany Justice, co-founder of Moms for Liberty, said she sees it as “a real, sincere effort to chill speech.”
Justice told The Federalist that an FBI agent called the mother, who belonged to Moms for Liberty, after she was reported from a school board meeting. Justice said the mother was “quite upset” when she spoke at the meeting because her children were adversely affected by quarantines and school closures, and she saw the effects on the other children also. Justice said the mother “was very concerned about the mental health of the children” and “went to the school board to make them aware of the fact that the kids were not doing okay.”
“She was doing everything she could to sound the alarm,” Justice said, “and she was silenced.”
The agent asked the mother a lot of questions, Justice said, including about her mental health, whether they had firearms in the home, and why she had spoken at the school board meeting. Justice said the mother was cleared by the FBI but told not to talk about about the conversation. According to Justice, the FBI agent said dozens of other parents had also been reported.
The memorandum from Attorney General Merrick Garland effectively authorizing such FBI investigations of parents exercising their free speech followed a letter from the National School Boards Association to the White House comparing “acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials” to “domestic terrorism and hate crimes” and requesting possible federal intervention, including under the PATRIOT Act. Internal NSBA emails suggest the letter was crafted based on input from the White House in response to a request from Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
The NSBA eventually apologized for its letter and announced “significant steps already taken to address this matter.” These steps, however, did not include condemning Garland’s memorandum, asking for it to be rescinded, or taking responsibility for their role in its creation. The memo remains in place.
House and Senate Judiciary Committee members said in letters to Garland that the FBI had created the “threat tag” EDUOFFICIALS and applied it to investigations of alleged threats against school personnel in almost every region. One of the individuals tagged by the FBI, according to Rep. Jim Jordan’s letter, was the mother who belonged to Moms for Liberty.
“Hopefully, the mom was cleared and this will never be an issue for her again,” Justice said, “but for other parents across this country that have spoken at school board meetings, where do we go from here? How can we ever trust the government again?”
Another investigation target, according to the letter, was a father who opposed mask mandates. According to the letter, the person who reported the father described him as someone who “fit the profile of an insurrectionist,” but when interviewed by an FBI agent “admitted they had ‘no specific information or observations of . . . any crimes or threats.’”
The FBI opened an investigation into Republican state elected officials, according to the letter, after a state Democratic party official alleged that “the Republicans ‘incited violence’ by expressing public displeasure with school districts’ vaccine mandates.”
Olivia Hajicek is an intern at The Federalist and a junior at Hillsdale College studying history and journalism. She has covered campus and city news as a reporter for The Hillsdale Collegian. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.