It is not “domestic extremism” for a parent to advocate for their child’s best interests at local school board meetings, admitted Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco to Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday.
Cotton questioned Monaco about the Department of Justice’s mobilization of federal law enforcement, at the recommendation of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), against parents who voice opposition to mask mandates and the teaching of concepts of Critical Race Theory at local school board meetings.
“Is it domestic extremism for a parent to advocate for their child’s best interests?” Cotton asked Monaco.
“I think the, what you have described, no I would not describe as domestic extremism,” she responded.
Parents are speaking out against Critical Race Theory in schools. Now the Biden administration is cracking down on dissent. https://t.co/jvdi2kB7rp
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) October 5, 2021
The full exchange between Cotton and Monaco is below:
Senator Cotton: Ms. Monaco, last week the National School Boards Association wrote to President Biden asking the administration to bring the full force and weight of the feds down onto parents who are protesting various school policies at school board meetings, including indoctrination of children with an anti-American doctrine known as Critical Race Theory, or protesting the requirement that children as young as two be required to wear masks. Now, I think we can all agree that violence is not an acceptable form of political protest and violence can never be used to achieve policy or political goals, but that’s not what the school board association letter focuses on. In fact, in one example of what the association thinks warrants federal criminal charges, they cite–and this is a direct quote, “An individual who prompted a school board to call a recess because of opposition to Critical Race Theory.” A recess. The association is asking the administration to use the Patriot Act, a law that this Congress passed and has repeatedly reauthorized, primarily to stop the threat of Islamic Jihadists, to bring criminal charges for domestic terrorism against parents who attend school boards to oppose things like Critical Race Theory or mask mandates resulting in a recess being called. Ms. Monaco is it domestic extremism for a parent to advocate for their child’s best interests?
Lisa Monaco: Well Senator, as you rightly point out that violence is not the answer, there can be very spirited public debate and there should be very spirited public debate on a whole host of issues, but when that tips over into violence or threats there is a role for law enforcement.
Senator Cotton: But Ms. Monaco, I’m sorry but my time is limited here, and I asked a simple yes or no question and I have several of them that I would like to ask. So, I would like a yes or no answer. Is it domestic extremism for a parent to advocate for their child’s best interests?
Lisa Monaco: I think the, what you have described, no I would not describe as domestic extremism.
Senator Cotton: Is it domestic extremism for a parent to want to have a say in what their child is taught at school?
Lisa Monaco: I think it’s important, although obviously not my field in the Justice Department, to opine on education policy. It’s important for parents’ voices to be heard but Senator I want to talk about what the Attorney General did do in response to that, the issue of threats…
Senator Cotton: Ms. Monaco, I want to get through my question, I grant you that no one, no one should ever threaten violence or use violence to try to achieve political or policy goals. They shouldn’t for instance follow Democratic Senators into the bathroom, violating state laws. No one should ever use threats of violence or violence to achieve political goals. I’m asking very simple questions here and trying to get to the bottom of what was on the Attorney General’s mind or the Department’s mind. Is it domestic extremism for parents to oppose their children being taught to treat people differently because of race?
Lisa Monaco: The Justice Department’s job, Senator, is to apply facts to law not to opine on letters that are put forward or you know I think it’s very important for the Justice Department to…
Senator Cotton: Ms. Monaco, it is a fact that the school board association just sent this letter to President Biden and then conveniently the Attorney General released his letter yesterday describing his “series of measures” to confront this grave and growing threat of parents protesting their kids being indoctrinated and the school board having to call a recess. Is there any connection between those two things?
Lisa Monaco: I want to be very clear on the memorandum that is publicly available the Attorney General issued talks about the importance of bringing federal, state, local law enforcement together to make sure that there is awareness on how to report threats that may occur and to ensure that there’s an open line of communication, to address threats, to address violence, and to address law enforcement issues in that context which is the job of the Justice Department, nothing more.
Senator Cotton: The United States just saw the largest single year increase in murders on record. Has the Attorney General issued a memorandum describing a special “series of measures” that the Department of Justice should take to try to address this record increase in murders?
Lisa Monaco: Yes, indeed Senator, and in fact I issued a directive to the field earlier this year.
Senator Cotton: You did? As the Attorney General.
Lisa Monaco: It was on behalf of the Attorney General and the rest of the leadership of the Justice Department to address the alarming rise in violent crime and to lay out a strategy for violent crime reduction which includes going after and using federal resources to target the most violent offenders, including those operating with guns, including those responsible for murders and violence in our communities. So, absolutely we take the alarming rise in violent crime exceptionally seriously, and indeed I have heard from the many hours I have spent with law enforcement leaders across this country how urgently they feel it is to address this rise in violent crime, and we are working every day to address that challenge.
Senator Cotton: My time is almost up and I just want to finish with one final question. Did anyone at the FBI express disagreements or any reticence at all about investigating disagreements between parents and school boards over curriculums and school policies?
Lisa Monaco: I don’t understand that to have been the, it absolutely was not the subject of the Attorney General’s memorandum, but the answer to your question is no.
Senator Cotton: Nobody at the FBI expressed any reticence?
Lisa Monaco: I’m sorry, Senator, if you are asking me what was the response to the Attorney General’s memorandum, I’ve heard no reticence, no concern. The job of U.S. Attorneys and FBI special agents in charge to be conveners in their community, to address violent issues in their community, is the core job of the Justice Department
Senator Cotton: Alright then.
In response to a letter last week by NSBA, in which the school boards organization asked President Joe Biden for “federal law enforcement and other assistance” to cope with frustrated parents at local school board meetings, Attorney General Merrick Garland mobilized the FBI working with U.S. attorneys across the country against parents based on NSBA reports of incidents, such as these below, which the group characterizes as “threats or actual acts of violence against our school districts”:
An individual was arrested in Illinois for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct during a school board meeting. During two separate school board meetings in Michigan, an individual yelled a Nazi salute in protest to masking requirements, and another individual prompted the board to call a recess because of opposition to critical race theory.
In New Jersey, Ohio, and other states, anti-mask proponents are inciting chaos during board meetings. In Virginia, an individual was arrested, another man was ticketed for trespassing, and a third person was hurt during a school board meeting discussion distinguishing current curricula from critical race theory and regarding equity issues. In other states including Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Tennessee, school boards have been confronted by angry mobs and forced to end meetings abruptly. A resident in Alabama, who proclaimed himself as “vaccine police,” has called school administrators while filming himself on Facebook Live.
“Other groups are posting watchlists against school boards and spreading misinformation that boards are adopting critical race theory curriculum and working to maintain online learning by haphazardly attributing it to COVID-19,” NSBA continued in its letter to Biden.
“These incidents are beyond random acts,” NSBA CEO Chip Slaven told Education Week. “What we are now seeing is a pattern of threats and violence occurring across state lines and via online platforms, which is why we need the federal government’s assistance.”
NSBA also asked Biden to issue an executive order that would serve to protect school officials and school board members from parents after review of “appropriate enforceable actions against these crimes and acts of violence under the Gun-Free School Zones Act, the PATRIOT Act in regards to domestic terrorism, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights statute, the Conspiracy Against Rights statute.”
The school boards organization complained in its letter that parents are objecting to the teaching of concepts of Critical Race Theory.
“This propaganda continues despite the fact that critical race theory is not taught in public schools and remains a complex law school and graduate school subject well beyond the scope of a K-12 class,” NSBA asserted.
Last month, however, the United States Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution during its annual convention in which its members pledged to support the teaching of CRT in K-12 schools.
“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the nation’s mayors support the implementation of CRT in the public education curriculum to help engage our youth in programming that reflects an accurate, complete account of BIPOC history,” the mayors stated.
In July, the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teachers’ union, also moved to openly promote the teaching of Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools and to oppose any bans on instruction in both the Marxist ideology and the widely discredited New York Times’ “1619 Project.”
The union agreed to “research the organizations attacking educators,” doing what it referred to as “anti-racist work,” as well as to “use the research already done and put together a list of resources and recommendations for state affiliates, locals, and individual educators to utilize when they are attacked.”
NEA dismissed the outrage of grassroots parents, claiming the main critics of Critical Race Theory are “well-funded” conservative groups.
“The attacks on anti-racist teachers are increasing, coordinated by well-funded organizations such as the Heritage Foundation,” the union said. “We need to be better prepared to respond to these attacks so that our members can continue this important work.”