FBI probing 'disturbing spike in harassment' at schools following GOP anti-mask campaigns

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The Department of Justice is calling in the FBI to deal with a spate of violence and threats against school officials as Republicans rail against mask mandates and critical race theory.

Attorney General Merrick Garland sent a memo Monday saying he has asked the FBI to partner with local law enforcement officials to address a spate of violence and threats against school officials across the country.

Teachers and other school officials have reported being harassed and even attacked by parents riled up over school mask mandates and "critical race theory."

The rise in violence and threats against school officials comes after Republican lawmakers and officials have for months been railing against mask mandates in schools — which help prevent the spread of COVID-19 — as well as crusading against anti-racist and pro-LGBTQ education.

Garland acknowledged the ongoing threat of violence against school officials and announced that the FBI will coordinate with local law enforcement to address the issue.

"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," Garland wrote in the memo.

He added:

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.

Garland's announcement has already angered some Republicans in Congress.

"Now Joe Biden is deploying the FBI against parents who have concerns about Critical Race Theory being taught to their children," Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) tweeted on Tuesday. "This is a remarkable and dangerous abuse of power."

Critical race theory isn't taught in schools. But GOP operatives and conservative media outlets like Fox News have relentlessly pushed the issue in the hope it could be a potent midterm message to provoke the Republican base and help Republicans win back control of Congress.

Other GOP senators echoed Hawley's sentiments, painting the response to the harassing behavior of parents at meetings as another attempt to silence dissent.

"Labeling parents as threats because they hold elected school board members accountable for what's going on in the classroom is a clear attempt to silence political opposition," Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) tweeted.

"Record spike in murders & drug deaths — not a priority for Biden's DOJ," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) tweeted. "But when parents are concerned about CRT in schools, Biden throws the weight of the federal government against them. It won't work."

The record spike in murders Cotton referenced occurred when Donald Trump was president.

Polling shows neither critical race theory nor school mask mandates anger the majority of voters. Nearly 60% of parents support mask mandates, and 63% support teaching the "ongoing effects of slavery and racism" in the United States.

The GOP's crusade against such teachings seems to have had the intended effect of riling up their base. Angry conservatives have been storming school board meetings across the country to protest both anti-racist curriculum and face mask requirements.

The right-wing crusade has also led to violence.

A parent at Sutter Creek Elementary School in California allegedly attacked a teacher on the first day of school because they were angry about mask mandates. The teacher was hospitalized with "lacerations on his face, some bruising on his face and a pretty good knot on the back of his head," Amador County Unified School District Superintendent Torie Gibson told an NBC affiliate in Sacramento.

In Austin, Texas, a parent allegedly ripped the mask off a teacher during a school event. And videos of angry parents yelling about masks and critical race theory have gone viral on social media.

Ultimately, the spate of threats and attacks led school boards to ask the Biden administration for help in handling the rise of violent threats and attacks.

"We urge the federal government's intervention against individuals or hate groups who are targeting our schools and educators," the National School Boards Association wrote in a letter to the Biden administration on Sept. 29.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.