During a White House press conference on Wednesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki was questioned about a recent decision from the Department of Justice to investigate threats against school board members following a letter to the president from the National School Board Association.
"A week ago, the National School Board Association wrote to the President to say that their teachers feel like some parents protesting recently could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism, and then the Attorney General put the FBI on the case. So does the administration agree that parents upset about their kids curriculums could be considered domestic terrorists?" asked Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy.
"Let me unravel this a little bit because the National School Board Association is not a part of the US government, I’d point you to them," responded Psaki. "What the Department of Justice said in a letter from the Attorney General is that 'threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values.' That is true."
"These were threats against public servants, threats against members of the school board. Regardless of reasoning, threats and violence against public servants is illegal. That's what he was conveying from the Department of Justice," she continued.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland wrote in a letter that the FBI and US Attorney's Offices will meet during the next month with law enforcement leaders across the country "to discuss strategies for addressing this disturbing trend," in response to the NSBA urging President Biden to use "federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats and violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation," referring to school board meetings across the country that have resulted in angry parents speaking out.
"Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values," Garland wrote in the letter. "Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety."
Doocy continued, asking Psaki if the administration would be okay with the Patriot Act being used on these parents.
"But, the Department of Justice does now have the FBI on this. It’s something that the School Boards Association is asking for is for the administration to consider using the Patriot Act to investigate some of these school board protesters, so would the administration be okay with the FBI using the Patriot Act to surveil these parents, if that is what they decide?" Doocy pressed.
Psaki stated once again that she doesn’t not speak on behalf of the NSBA, and would point top the Attorney General for more information regarding actions taken.
"Something that you said on Monday, after some protesters were hounding Kyrsten Sinema into a restroom, you said the President stands for the fundamental right of people to protest to object and to criticize, so does the President support the fundamental right of these parents to protest at school board meetings?" asked Doocy.
"Of course, but he doesn't stand for the fundamental right, I assume you don't either, for people to take a violent action against public servants, and that's what the threats are about, so no he doesn't stand for that no one should," said Psaki.
The decision to mobilize the FBI and other agencies against these "domestic terrorism" threats brought about backlash from a number of organizations, saying that the NSBA's letter was a "thinly veiled threat."
"Your letter to President Biden is a thinly veiled threat, intended to intimidate into silence and submission the very constituents that your members ostensibly represent," the letter reads.
"Our organizations unequivocally oppose violence and find it deeply troubling that you imply otherwise about concerned citizens who care deeply about their community's children — and who are concerned by the direction that America's schools have taken," the letter adds.