Parents in Michigan sue to stop AG Garland over memo

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A group of parents from a school district in Saline, Michigan, are suing Attorney General Merrick Garland over a highly criticized memo which announced the Federal Bureau of Investigations would get involved in reports of violent acts against school personnel. 

The parents, represented by conservative law firm American Freedom Law Center, filed the suit in US District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday.

The civil suit is looking to protect the parents’ “fundamental rights to freedom of speech, to direct the education of their children, and to be free from unlawful discrimination based upon their political and religious beliefs and views.”

They are seeking “a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining the recently announced policy of the Attorney General to use federal law enforcement resources to silence parents and other private citizens who publicly object to and oppose the divisive, harmful, immoral, and racist policies of the ‘progressive’ Left that are being implemented by school boards and school officials in public school districts throughout the United States, including in the public schools in Saline, Michigan, and in Loudoun County, Virginia,” the suit says.

The lawsuit comes after Republican lawmakers and parents slammed Garland’s memo and the intention behind it, appearing to accuse him of targeting parents for expressing disapproval with the implementation of mask mandates and critical race theory in schools. 

Garland’s memo, issued earlier this month, revealed the FBI would be leading in investigations and response to what he called “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.” 

The memo did not detail what the “threats of violence” were, and did not mention any disturbances created by parents during school board meetings. 

A Fenton resident cheers on a speaker who opposes the mask mandate during public comment at a Genesee County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at the county administration building in downtown Flint, Mich.
A Fenton resident cheers on a speaker who opposes the mask mandate during public comment at a Genesee County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at the county administration building in downtown Flint, Mich.
Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP

However, the memo did follow a request from the National School Boards Association for the federal government to get involved, the threats of violence to “domestic terrorism.”

In Tuesday’s lawsuit, the parents noted that they believe “it is the natural, fundamental right of parents and legal guardians to determine and direct the care, teaching, and education of their children,” while accusing progressive of not believing in that right. 

“As parents and concerned citizens, Plaintiffs have a right to publicly object to the divisive, false, harmful, and immoral curricula and policies being advanced by SAS and LCPS. This right to publicly criticize SAS and LCPS includes the right to do so vociferously and even stridently.”

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke has defended the memo saying it does not violate the First Amendment.
REUTERS/Ken Cedeno/File Photo

The plaintiffs described Garland’s memo as a “one-page screed that rubber-stamps the claims of ‘progressive,’ left-wing activists.”

They added: “It fails to address the Department of Justice’s lack of jurisdiction to intrude on interactions between parents and local school boards in the absence of any federal crime, and it fails to account for the fact that the First Amendment protects political dissent — even dissent that rises to the level of intimidation or harassment.”

The suit follows a request from last week by America First Legal for the Department of Justice’s watchdog to investigate the memo. 

Amy Facchinello, a Grand Blanc school board member, cheers on a parent who spoke against the county's K-6 school mask mandate
Amy Facchinello, a Grand Blanc school board member, cheers on a parent who spoke against the county’s K-6 school mask mandate on Monday, Aug. 30 in Flint, Mich.
Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP

“Targeting parents in local school boards is atrocious. There’s no lawful basis for doing so. There’s no federal nexus that’s even connected to such an investigation,” America Legal First Founder Stephen Miller told Fox News. “There’s not even a half-hearted attempt to suggest this was done for a legitimate law enforcement purpose.”

“It seems quite obvious that it is meant to chill free speech and intimidate parents into silence and into obedience​,” Miller said. ​​

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke has defended the memo saying it does not violate the First Amendment rights of parents and is concerned with dealing with “threats against public servants and says that threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values.”



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