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U.S. Justice Dept defends efforts to step up monitoring threats to school boards By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – People holding placards during an emergency meeting of members of Lake County School Board to discuss the mask mandates in order to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), in Tavares Florida U.S.A, September 2, 2021. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/Fi

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters] – Tuesday saw Lisa Monaco, Deputy Attorney General of the United States defend a new program to counter harassment and threats against teachers and boards in public schools across the country. This comes after Republican lawmakers had accused the Justice Department that it tried to censor free speech for parents.

Monaco stated before Congress that the Justice Department does not seek to restrict speech but to coordinate with local and state law enforcement in order to make sure that “there’s awareness about how to report potential threats and that there is open communication to address them.”

Monday night’s memo from Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the FBI and federal prosecutors to make a meeting with the local and state police in 30 days. This was to review strategies to address the disturbing trend of threats to America’s public teachers.

Garland said that while spirited political debate is protected by the Constitution, it does not protect against threats to violence or attempts to intimidate people based on their opinions.

The memo comes as school boards across the country, including in nearby Loudoun County, Virginia, have seen a rise in protests and violent rhetoric fueled by right-wing media over claims that public schools are indoctrinating children into thinking America is a racist country through the teaching of a doctrine known as critical race theory.

Critics claim that there is not enough evidence to support the teaching of critical race theory in all public schools. However, protests have been rife and school boards meetings are often noisy.

Schools are also being questioned about the need to require their students to wear protective masks in order to stop the spread and propagation of the coronavirus.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley attacked the memo Tuesday and compared it to “McCarthy Era”. This refers to Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy’s controversial activities in 1950s Cold War era fear by claiming that Communists infiltrated U.S. government military, film, and media industries.

“Is it harassment and intimidation for parents to wait, at times, hours, at local school boards meetings to voice concerns over critical race theory, or the masking students…? He asked.

Monaco stated that spirituated debate was welcome and that it is important to emphasize that the department does not seek out violent situations.

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