GOP's false claim that DOJ is surveilling parents at school board meetings dismantled by WaPo analysis

GOP's false claim that DOJ is surveilling parents at school board meetings dismantled by WaPo analysis
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan, speaks with Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri, before delivering testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the proposal to establish a United States Space Force at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, April 11, 2019. (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
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As school districts across the country work to incorporate mitigation measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, anti-vaccine and anti-mask parents are making the jobs even harder. In fact, some angry parents have stormed school board meetings to express their opposition.

Now, some Republican lawmakers are spreading misinformation about the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) taking steps to monitor these parents. However, a new Washington Post analysis aims to dismantle Republicans' false claims.

WaPo reporter Salvador Rizzo began with a number of direct quotes from Republican lawmakers who have falsely accused the DOJ and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of targeting those parents.

"Attorney General Garland is weaponizing the DOJ by using the FBI to pursue concerned parents and silence them through intimidation," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), tweeted on Oct. 5. "Florida will defend the free speech rights of its citizens and will not allow federal agents to squelch dissent."

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also echoed similar sentiments that same day. Since then, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Sen. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and Glenn Youngkin, a Republican nominee for Virginia governor, have all followed suit with remarks.

Youngkin even released a campaign ad speaking directly to parents as he stoked fears about the DOJ and FBI's efforts.

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But Rizzo is providing the facts and pushing back against the Republican lawmakers' off-base claims. He offered a breakdown of school officials' overall goals in seeking assistance from law enforcement.

"The reality is school officials are reporting more concerns for their safety — some attendees at their meetings have been arrested for physical violence — and the Justice Department is calling for strategy sessions between federal and local law enforcement, a task force, and dedicated lines of communication to address the threats, and training for school board members and others who might be targeted," Rizzo explained.

Rizzo also refuted the claims made by DeSantis, McCarthy, and Youngkin.

"Dissenting parents would not be "silenced" by the feds under the attorney general's memo, as DeSantis, McCarthy, and Youngkin have said," Rizzo clarified. "Garland wrote, 'While the 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.'"

Citing the memo released by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Rizzo also highlighted a number of important takeaways as he emphasized what it really says. Rizzo wrote:

"Garland is calling for 1) strategy meetings between federal and local law enforcement, 2) a task force, 3) dedicated lines of communication for addressing threats, and 4) training and guidance for school officials. The news release says the Justice Department will study 'how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute these crimes, and ways to assist state, tribal, territorial and local law enforcement where threats of violence may not constitute federal crimes.'"

Rizzo concluded with four Pinocchios for Republican lawmakers based on the extent of the falsehoods they've circulated.

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