I am a mother of four, a criminal defense attorney and a lifelong liberal who is deeply concerned about the direction of New York City’s public schools. I’ve been outspoken about my views, along with an untold number of frustrated parents. For that, the FBI is considering using the PATRIOT Act against me.
Let me explain: late last month, the National School Boards Association, an umbrella organization representing thousands of local elected school board officials, sent a letter addressed to President Biden. It warned that “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat.” But not just any threat: “the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” The letter implored the White House to enlist the support of Homeland Security, the FBI and the Department of Justice to investigate the threat — adding that the alleged crimes fall under the purview of the “PATRIOT Act in regards to domestic terrorism.”
I read the letter with grave concern, as would any American who cares about our public schools and the safety of teachers and students. What was the nature of this threat? And would my own children be at risk?
As it turns out, the threat is me. The threat is parents showing up to dress down school boards over their dereliction of duty. That is what the NSBA considers a crime.
I urge you to read the letter in full. You will see that it contains 24 footnotes. The worst of the so-called crimes include prank calls; a single individual in Ohio yelling a “Nazi salute in protest of masking requirements”; another individual in Washington State whose disorderly conduct prompted the board to call a recess; “spreading misinformation” online, and disorderly conduct arrests. In New York, where I live, disorderly conduct is not even a criminal offense.
And yet within days of the NSBA letter, the top law enforcement official in the country, Attorney General Merrick Garland, publicly responded to the letter with a memorandum to the director of the FBI. Garland agreed with the NSBA that “there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against board members — without providing any evidence. He further announced specialized training for board members to “aid in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes” and, more worryingly, the creation of a task force composed of FBI and Justice Department representatives to “determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute these crimes.” The FBI’s clear message to parents is that the NSBA is on the right track.
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