Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) issued a fiery response Tuesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s announcement that he’s calling in the Federal Bureau of Investigation to help respond to threats made against school workers for enforcing Covid-19 safety guidelines, with the governor saying Florida “will not allow federal agents to squelch dissent.”
In a memorandum Monday, Garland said he was directing the FBI to work with prosecutors and local officials to discuss “strategies for addressing threats” against school workers in the goal of coming up with a system for threat reporting, assessment and response.
The announcement comes less than a week after the National School Board Association (NSBA), which represents local school board officials around the U.S., sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting FBI intervention to help combat “angry mobs” that have been appearing at school board meetings to protest Covid restrictions.
As governor of the nation’s third-largest state, DeSantis has been one of the most powerful figures blocking public Covid safety measures.
“Attorney General Garland is weaponizing the DOJ by using the FBI to pursue concerned parents and silence them through intimidation,” DeSantis tweeted Tuesday.
Scenes of angry parents threatening officials over Covid restrictions, especially mask mandates, played out across the country in late summer as school districts worked to come up with policies for the upcoming school year. In Florida, DeSantis has made clear that his administration is against essentially all public Covid restrictions, especially when it comes to schools. In August, the Florida State Board of Education enacted a new policy that allows students to transfer from public to private schools if they encounter what the state deems to be “COVID-19 harassment,” with taxpayers footing the bill to cover private school tuition. The state defines “COVID-19 harassment” as “any threatening, discriminatory, insulting, or dehumanizing verbal, written or physical conduct an individual student suffers” because of Covid protocols. Being asked to wear a mask qualifies as a reason for a student to transfer under the policy.
What To Watch For
The Biden administration has begun reimbursing school districts in Florida that had funding pulled by the state government over mask mandates. The state has been withholding funding equal to local school board members’ salaries, but the state education commissioner on Monday recommended the state increase its penalties so the federal reimbursement can’t cancel them out.
Garland says authorities will target school board threats (The Associated Press)