The Justice Department will address threats against school officials and staff

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People attend a special Board of Education meeting on mask mandates for students and staff in Kalamazoo County Schools at the Schoolcraft High School Gymnasium on Aug. 23 in Schoolcraft, Mich. COVID-19 protocols around the country have divided parents and school staff, in some cases leading to violence and intimidation.

Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images


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Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images


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In a six-page letter to President Biden last week, the National School Boards Association detailed instances of threats and acts of violence (mostly related to mask mandates) at school board meetings in states including California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Texas and Virginia.

It says such conduct — whether at local meetings or threats sent through mail and social media — endangers students and educators and disrupts school district operations, and notes the growing threat of «extremist hate organizations showing up at school board meetings.» As NPR’s Anya Kamenetz has reported, these protests are increasingly being coordinated by national groups like Let Them Breathe.

«As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,» the school boards association wrote, asking for federal help investigating and preventing them.


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Garland’s memorandum also says that the Justice Department will announce more efforts aimed at addressing the rise in «criminal conduct directed toward school personnel» in the days ahead. Those are expected to include:

  • The establishment of a task force to determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute crimes, and ways to assist local law enforcement in situations where threats of violence may not constitute federal crimes
  • The creation of Justice Department training and guidance for local school boards and school administrators that focuses on identifying behavior that constitutes threat, reporting such conduct to law enforcement and how to capture and preserve evidence for subsequent investigation and prosecution

«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,» he said.

This story originally published in the Morning Edition live blog.

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