ST. LOUIS-Five months after teachers and administrators in the Rockwood School District asked for additional security at school board meetings and in some cases at their homes in the face of threats over issues related to inclusive curriculum and other hotbutton topics, the U.S. Attorney General is calling for U.S. Attorneys and the FBI to meet with state and local law enforcement agencies over the next month “to open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment and response by law enforcement,” according to a memo released this week.
“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” Attorney General Merrick Garland wrote in the memo. “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.”
More training is also coming for local school board officials about what constitutes threats and how potential victims can help law enforcement in the prosecution of cases.
The move was quickly criticized by Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, who questioned a Justice Department official about the memo Tuesday. (1:34:46 mark).
Wednesday, Hawley told FOX2 that people making threats should be prosecuted, but questioned how the FBI was being involved.
“If you make violent threats or engage in acts of violence against anybody, I don’t care who they are, whether school board official, private citizen or whatever,then you ought to be prosecuted for that or certainly restrained for that, that’s why we have police, that’s what the local police are for but that’s not what’s happening here, that’s not what this is about, this is about using the FBI, using federal law enforcement to try and intimidate parents,” he said.
Lisa Monaco, the Deputy Attorney General who Hawley questioned Tuesday, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the memo did not mean the FBI was going to be in the business of investigating school board meetings, saying there’s room for “spirited debate”.
Senator Hawley worried in the hearing about the potential for a fine line between “spirited debate” and intimidation and said he wants to hear direct testimony from Attorney General Garland on the issue.