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In October 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland wrote a memo directing the FBI and federal prosecutors to hold meetings nationwide on criminal threats against school personnel.
The memo focused on tracking criminal conduct, not parents’ views about school curriculum.
Internal FBI guidance showed a “threat tag” was created to track threats against school officials, not to flag parents exclusively for voicing views on curriculum.
House conservatives who held up Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s House speaker vote demanded that lawmakers review criminal investigations by the Justice Department and FBI.
Republicans are planning to create a panel that will probe federal investigations related to what they consider a "violation of the civil liberties of citizens of the United States" and the "weaponization of the federal government."
On ABC’s "This Week" on Jan. 8, host George Stephanopoulos asked U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., whether he would pledge not to serve on such a subcommittee since he is part of a Justice Department investigation related to events that led up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Perry did not say he wouldn’t serve on such a panel and suggested that federal officials have overreached their power.
"We're talking about parents that go to school board meetings for the schools that they pay for with their taxes and having the temerity to question the curriculum, and then they're put on, you know, the red flagged, they’re flagged by the Department of Justice and the FBI for attending a meeting," Perry said. "That's not what America is supposed to be about. That sounds like some tinhorn Third World dictatorship."
In September 2021, following threats against school officials, the National School Boards Association wrote a letter to President Joe Biden requesting assistance to address concerns about school employees’ and board members’ safety.
On Oct. 4, 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland sent a five-paragraph memo to the FBI and federal prosecutors acknowledging a "disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence" against school officials. Garland directed the FBI to hold meetings across the country and bring together government leaders to discuss strategies to address those threats.
"While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views," Garland wrote.
The memo focused on criminal conduct, not parents’ views about COVID-19 policies or school curriculum.
The memo led to misinformation such as the debunked claim that parents who "challenge school curriculums" were being labeled "domestic terrorists."
A Trump-nominated judge dismissed a case by parents challenging the memo. The judge concluded that the memo does not target protected conduct under the Constitution and covers only criminal conduct.
We contacted Perry’s office to ask whether he had evidence that federal law enforcement officials flagged parents for questioning curriculum. We received no response.
An FBI spokesperson told PolitiFact that the agency does not "flag" parents for attending meetings and questioning their children’s curriculum.
It’s possible Perry’s claim is based on a letter Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, wrote to Garland in November 2021.
Jordan wrote that he had information from a whistleblower showing the FBI was compiling threat assessments related to parents. Jordan’s letter said the FBI created a "threat tag" called EDUOFFICIALS.
The FBI uses "threat tags" to track information and spot trends — it does not necessarily signal a full investigation, which occurs if there is evidence of potential violence and violation of federal law, an FBI spokesperson told PolitiFact. The EDUOFFICIALS tag was created to track instances of threats directed against school officials.
House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee published a report in November that said the FBI had opened investigations with the EDUOFFICIALS threat tag in almost every region of the country, according to a whistleblower. But the report doesn’t detail the outcome or full scope of any investigation.
The report cited tips received by the National Threat Operations Center. One tip led to a mother being interviewed by an FBI field office after she allegedly told a local school board, "We are coming for you." The mother, who is a member of the right-wing group Moms for Liberty, told the FBI agent she meant her group would seek to vote school board members out. The House Republicans’ report doesn’t explain whether that was the end of the FBI’s query into the mother.
Perry said that "parents that go to school board meetings" and question the curriculum are being "flagged by the Department of Justice and the FBI for attending a meeting."
Perry’s office provided no evidence and his claim echoes misleading statements about a 2021 Justice Department memo directing federal law enforcement to hold meetings nationwide about criminal threats against school officials.
The memo focused on monitoring criminal conduct; it wasn’t about investigating parents who spoke about curriculum at school board meetings.
The FBI created an EDUOFFICIALS "threat tag" as a logistical tool to track threats of violence against school officials, not to flag parents for attending meetings or questioning curriculum.
We rate Perry’s statement False.
ABC This Week, Transcript, Jan. 8, 2023
ABC News, Perry won't recuse himself from possible GOP investigation of Jan. 6 probe investigating him, Jan. 8, 2022
Politico, Proposed GOP select panel would be empowered to review ‘ongoing criminal investigations’ Jan. 7, 2023
National School Boards Association, "Letter to President Biden concerning threats to public schools and school board members," Sept. 29, 2021
Washington Post, National School Boards Association stumbles into politics and is blasted apart, Jan. 13, 2022
U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich, Saline Parents vs. Merrick Garland, Sept. 23, 2022
House Judiciary Committee Republicans, FBI whistleblowers: What their disclosures indicate about the politicization of the FBI and Justice Department, November 2022
Washington Post, The big-stack-of-paper strategy comes to House Judiciary Republicans, Nov. 4, 2022
PolitiFact, "Rick Scott wrongly warns FBI coming after loud parents at school board meetings," Oct. 11, 2021
PolitiFact, "No, parents who question school curriculums haven’t been labeled domestic terrorists," Oct. 18, 2021
PolitiFact, No, the federal government isn’t using the Patriot Act to treat parents like domestic terrorists, Oct. 22, 2021
PolitiFact, Kleefisch misses mark with claim that the FBI will be targeting parents on critical race theory, Nov. 9, 2021
PolitiFact, Did Merrick Garland 'sic' police on parents at school board meetings? May 23, 2022
Email interview, Wyn Hornbuckle, U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson, Jan. 9, 2023
FBI press office, Statement to PolitiFact, Jan. 9, 2023
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