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Opinion The Biden administration’s self-inflicted school board disaster

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Capitol Hill on Oct. 21 in Washington, D.C. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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The Biden administration has suffered yet another self-inflicted disaster, as the National School Boards Association (NSBA) board of directors has repudiated and apologized for the letter it sent to President Biden accusing American parents of engaging in “domestic terrorism” and asking him to deploy the FBI and “its National Security Branch” to investigate them using the Patriot Act.

Here is the problem: The Biden administration already acted on the association’s request. Just days after the letter was received, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memorandum to the director of the FBI ordering him to “convene meetings … in each federal judicial district” to discuss “strategies for addressing threats.” But unlike the NSBA, Garland has not had the decency to withdraw his memorandum and apologize for this disgraceful effort to weaponize the FBI to intimidate parents who show up at school board meetings to protest the direction of their children’s education.

Instead, Garland has tried to whitewash his actions, telling Congress last week that he did not use the words “domestic terrorism” or “Patriot Act” in his memorandum. That was intentionally misleading. In a statement accompanying the memorandum’s release, the Justice Department announced it intended to create “a task force, consisting of representatives from the department’s … National Security Division,” among others, to “determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute these crimes.” According to the Justice Department website, the “National Security Division (NSD) was created in March 2006 by the USA PATRIOT Reauthorization and Improvement Act” to “protect the United States from threats to our national security.” So Garland was doing exactly what the NSBA asked — ordering the use of the Patriot Act to investigate parents who come to school board meetings to exercise their First Amendment rights.

The story gets worse. It turns out the Biden administration did not simply passively receive and act on the NSBA letter. According to emails obtained through public records requests by Parents Defending Education, White House staff had been in contact with the NSBA for “several weeks” before the letter was sent and had requested specific information be included. In one email, NSBA interim executive director and chief executive Chip Slaven wrote that “in talks over the last several weeks with White House staff, they requested additional information on some of the specific threats, so the letter also details many of the incidents that have been occurring.” This strongly suggests that the White House actively collaborated with the NSBA on this unprecedented assault on parental rights.

Worse still, one of the incidents the association included in response to the White House’s request was that of an angry father who was arrested at a school board meeting in Loudoun County, Va. He had good reason to be angry: His daughter had been sexually assaulted in the girls’ bathroom of her Loudoun County school by a male student. “I am not a domestic terrorist,” said father Scott Smith. “I am a concerned father who loves his family and will protect them at every turn.”

The domestic terrorism controversy has helped turn the Virginia governor’s race — which should have been a Democratic cakewalk — into a dead heat. In one poll, Republican Glenn Youngkin now leads former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe by 17 points among K-12 parents. Apparently, moms and dads don’t like being called terrorists. Nor do they appreciate it when former president Barack Obama shows up at a rally for McAuliffe and accuses them of “fake outrage” and stoking “phony, trumped-up culture wars.”

What is inexplicable is why — with all the self-inflicted crises the Biden White House is facing — they would needlessly ignite yet another dumpster fire? Instead of listening to the legitimate concerns of parents angry about school closures, mask mandates and seeing their kids indoctrinated with extremist ideologies, the Biden administration collaborated with an activist group to intimidate and silence them. Their actions had the opposite effect — pouring gasoline on the brushfire that is sweeping suburban school districts across the nation. Parents are mad as hell, and rightly so — and will be taking their anger into the voting booth.