The recent surge of violence and threats at school board meetings across the country have been nothing short of alarming. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has taken notice, and has recently issued subpoenas to the heads of the Justice Department, FBI and Department of Education seeking documents related to local school board meetings.
In October 2021, the Department of Justice formed a task force to address the increased threats, noting that there had 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.”
The subpoenas sent by Jordan to the Justice Department, FBI and Department of Education require the respective heads to turn over all documents related to the topic by March 1. Jordan’s office said Friday that since October 2021, Judiciary Committee Republicans have sent over one hundred letters to Biden Administration officials requesting answers about how the Administration used federal counterterrorism resources against American parents.
Whistleblowers have claimed that the FBI’s counterterrorism and criminal divisions “created a specific threat tag for school board-related threats and even opened investigations into parents simply for speaking out on behalf of their children.” Republicans outlined these claims in a November report on the “politicization” of the DOJ and FBI.
The subpoena sent to the Justice Department requests documents and communications between DOJ employees and U.S. intelligence agencies “referring or relating to alleged threats posed by concerned parents at local school board meetings.” It also calls on the Attorney General to provide records related to the creation of the DOJ’s task force to address violent threats against school officials and teachers.
The subpoena sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray asks for documents related to meetings held with U.S. Attorney’s offices that pertained to the task force, and also requests documents and communications related to the threat tag. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was asked to supply documents related to a letter sent by the National School Board Association in September 2021 to President Joe Biden requesting assistance to keep school board meetings safe.
The FBI responded to Jordan’s subpoenas Friday afternoon, saying in a statement: “As Director Wray and other FBI officials have stated clearly on numerous occasions before Congress and elsewhere, the FBI has never been in the business of investigating speech or policing speech at school board meetings or anywhere else, and we never will be.”
While the Justice Department acknowledged receipt of the subpoena, they had no further comment. The Education Department responded to Chairman Jordan’s letter earlier this week, and remains committed to responding to the House Judiciary Committee’s requests in a manner consistent with longstanding Executive Branch policy.
It is clear that Chairman Jordan is taking the issue of violence and threats at school board meetings seriously. It remains to be seen what documents will be provided to the committee and what the outcome of the investigation will be.