Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandSouth Carolina nurse charged for allegedly making fake vaccine cards DOJ launches civil rights probe into police department in New York suburb Appeals court grapples with DOJ effort to shield Trump from E. Jean Carroll suit MORE defended his office's effort to combat a growing number of violent threats against school board members and other school employees as Republicans attacked the policy at a congressional hearing Thursday.
Facing a series of angry criticisms from GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee, Garland said that the effort is intended only to make sure that debates over local education policy do not devolve into violence, and dismissed any suggestion that the Department of Justice would target parents for criticizing school boards.
"I want to be clear that the Justice Department supports and defends the First Amendment right of parents to complain as vociferously as they wish about the education of their children, about the curriculum taught in the schools," he said.
Republicans spent most of their allotted questioning time on Thursday pressing Garland about the memo, criticizing it as going too far and having a chilling effect on parents' ability to weigh in on local school policies.
Garland announced the memo earlier this month, directing FBI officials and federal prosecutors around the country to meet with local counterparts to discuss potentially criminal threats against school officials and teachers and to establish "dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting."
Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanWith extreme gerrymanders locking in, Biden needs to make democracy preservation job one Jim Jordan reveals he had COVID-19 this summer The Memo: Gosar censured, but toxic culture grows MORE (R-Ohio) called it a "snitch line on parents" who criticize school board initiatives regarding issues like the teaching of critical race theory.
Garland responded to the attacks by saying the department effort has nothing to do with the issues of debate at any local school board.
"This is not about what happens inside school board meetings," the attorney general said. "It's only about threats of violence and violence aimed at school officials, school employees and teachers."