AG Garland Ordered Hundreds of DOJ Personnel to Meet on School Board ‘Threats’

AG Garland Ordered Hundreds of DOJ Personnel to Meet on School Board ‘Threats’

  • December 14, 2023
Despite downplaying role in implementing ‘Garland Memo,’ DOJ scrambled nearly 600 federal employees in response

Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) has discovered that, despite efforts to downplay its role in enforcing the “Garland Memo,” the Department of Justice ordered more than 500 high-level DOJ officials across the country to engage in meetings with local law enforcement regarding implementation of the memo. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents obtained by PPT reveal DOJ issued an October 20, 2021 memorandum ordering all U.S. Attorneys and an array of other DOJ staff “to convene in partnership with the FBI, meetings with appropriate law enforcement agencies,” to “assess and discuss trends in violations of criminal laws regarding harassment, intimidation, threats of violence, and actual violence against school officials, teachers, and employees.”

The October 20, 2021 memo was addressed to all U.S. Attorneys, all First Assistant U.S. Attorneys, all Executive Assistant U.S. Attorneys, all Criminal Chiefs, all Law Enforcement Coordinators, and all Public Affairs Officers at the 93 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and mandated the meetings be held by November 3, 2021, as a follow up to the infamous “Garland School Board Memo.” The Garland School Board Memo, which Attorney General Garland defended before the Senate Judiciary Committee, was issued within a week of a letter from the National School Board Association (NSBA) asking the Biden administration to take action against parents that it said threatened school board members amid contentious school board meetings across the nation. The NSBA letter equated some of the actions of parents at these meetings with “domestic terrorism.” NSBA subsequently apologized and rescinded the letter.

In September 2023 a federal judge threw out a lawsuit from parents who alleged the Garland Memo was a threat to free speech. “The alleged AG Policy is not regulatory, proscriptive, or compulsory in nature because it does not impose any regulations, requirements, or enforcement actions on individuals,” the judge wrote. “None of the documents that the plaintiffs allege establish the policy create an imminent threat of future legal actions against anyone, much less the plaintiffs.”

Perhaps not, but the document PPT obtained shows that DOJ was vigorously pursuing the issue and seeking ways to federalize local and state affairs. Among the topics DOJ wanted discussed in the meetings were “how victims can be supported”; “state, local, Tribal, and territorial laws that address this conduct”; “relevant federal laws and the appropriate exercise of federal law enforcement authority”; and “resources for threat mitigation.”

During the Judiciary Committee hearing mentioned above, senators confronted Garland with a memo from Montana AG Leif Johnson that included “a short summary of federal statutes that may serve as the basis for a prosecution of such threats and violence.” Johnson encouraged schools, school boards and local Montana law enforcement to “feel free to contact the FBI” if they believed a person violated one of the statutes. Garland told the Judiciary Committee he had no knowledge of the Montana memo, so he couldn’t address it. But the order his office issued just days later sought the same results.

“DOJ and FBI officials stated publicly that enforcement of the school board memo was not a focus, but committing the volume of resources required by the directive PPT has uncovered reveals that exactly the opposite was true,” said PPT Director Michael Chamberlain. “They said all the right things about respecting the First Amendment rights of parents, but it certainly seems like they were ready to crank up the federal law enforcement apparatus over contentious school board meetings. Trust in the federal government, including federal law enforcement agencies, is at historic lows and the wide gap between talk and action in this case is one of the reasons why.”