Sen. Ron Johnson ripped the Department of Justice probe into schools, saying it appears evident to him that the real focus is on parents who are protesting the introduction of controversial materials like critical race theory and sexually explicit books in school libraries.
“What the attorney general is doing … is outrageous. It is such a violation of people’s constitutional rights to petition their government, to free speech,” the Wisconsin Republican said Sunday during an interview on “Cats Roundtable” with billionaire New York grocery magnate John Catsimatidis on WABC 770 AM.
Johnson’s comments follow a memo from Attorney General Merrick Garland instructing U.S. attorneys and the FBI to look into alleged threats against school board members and teachers made by officials with the National School Board Association, who sent a letter earlier this month to President Joe Biden.
“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 in their letter to Biden.
“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. “As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
In response, Garland wrote in his Oct. 4 memo: “In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools. While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views.
“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. In the coming days, the Department will announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.”
The responses from the association and Garland come after a growing number of parents around the country have been showing up at school board meetings to protest against divisive curriculum such as critical race theory and what they see as inappropriate sexual content in library books.
In his interview, Johnson ripped the directive and said that, increasingly, Democrats are using the term “domestic terrorists” to describe anyone who questions liberal orthodoxy on issues like COVID-19 and that the Justice Department memo is just a “method of intimidation.”
“[Garland] is saying [the parents] are intimidating school board members. No, it is the attorney general of the United States that is intimidating people exercising their rights to free speech and the right to petition their government,” said the Wisconsin Republican who has yet to announce whether he’ll run for reelection next year.
The senator went on to press parents to continue pushing back against school boards that seek to implement CRT and other divisive materials.
“I hope Americans are paying attention. The good news is that it seems that parents are paying attention … They’re running for school board. I tell people in Wisconsin if you don’t want critical race theory, if you don’t want the 1619 project taught to your children, don’t let it be,” he told Catsimiditis.
“Show up peacefully. Be respectful. But be insistent. Demand that the school boards follow your wishes. Not the wishes of Joe Biden and his cast of characters,” he added.
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