Garland Taps FBI to Probe Nationwide Threats Against US School Officials Amid Spike in Violence
US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Monday that the FBI will work in conjunction with federal attorneys, as well as local leaders, to launch a nationwide effort to counter threats of violence made against teachers and school board members nationwide.
Additionally, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement that it was creating a federal task force that will address “the rise in criminal conduct towards school personnel.”
In a memorandum dated Monday, Garland cited a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” against every individual that “participates in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools.”
“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” wrote Garland. “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 agency said in the statement the “expected” task force would meet with city, state, tribal and local leaders “in the coming days” to discuss strategies and address the “disturbing trend.”
The new effort comes less than a week after the National School Boards Association asked US President Joe Biden on Thursday for federal assistance to investigate the harassment and threats that teachers and school board members were facing in response to COVID-19 restrictions.
Teachers have reportedly endured violent upticks by parents over district mask mandates that have to be enforced to schoolchildren. An incident was reported in August after a teacher at an Eanes Independent School District campus was physically assaulted by a parent, and had her face mask ripped off just as the new school year kicked off.
In Northern California, a parent allegedly verbally assaulted the school’s principal over a mask dispute, resulting in a physical altercation with a teacher.
The newly-launched task force is set to include representatives from the Criminal Division, National Security Division, the FBI and other divisions of the department.
The Justice Department will also be designing specialized training for local school boards and school administrators to help potential victims identify and report the type of behavior that would constitute threats, as well as learning how to properly gather evidence that will assist an investigation.