Judge dismisses lawsuit over DOJ memo on school board threats


A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by parents accusing Attorney General Merrick Garland of stifling their freedom of speech, saying the group misread a memo alleging increasing school harassment.

In 2021, Garland released a memo addressing the “disturbing rise in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” in schools. The memo sparked months of backlash and false claims that the attorney general believed parents concerned about education policy were “domestic terrorists.”

In an attempt to prevent the Justice Department from enforcing the memo, a group of Virginia and Washington parents sued Garland, alleging that the memo sought to silence parents who lawfully spoke out against the “harmful, immoral, and racist policies of the… ‘progressive’ leftists protested’ at their local schools.

Federal Judge Dabney Friedrich, an appointee to former President Donald Trump, ruled that the memo announced little more than a “set of measures” directing federal agencies to address the increasing threats being directed at school board members, teachers and other school employees.

“The alleged AG policy is not regulatory, proscriptive or coercive in nature as it does not impose any regulations, requirements or enforcement actions on individuals,” Friedrich wrote. “None of the documents that the plaintiffs allege establish the policy creates an imminent threat of future legal action against anyone, let alone the plaintiffs.”

Friedrich noted that the memo only addressed threats of violence and specifically stated that parents have the right to “mental debates about political matters.” The memo “does not designate anyone as a domestic terrorist,” Friedrich said.

The ruling is the latest development in a relentless campaign backed by some right-wing media outlets and Republican politicians, complaining that the Justice Department wanted to punish parents for attending or protesting school board meetings.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee last October asked Garland to retract the memo and urged him to explain the memo during public hearings.

“I don’t think parents who testify, talk, argue, or complain about school boards and schools should be classified as domestic terrorists or any type of crime,” Garland testified at the time, saying that “true threats of violence are not.” are protected by the First Amendment,” and that “those are the things we’re concerned about here. Those are the only things we worry about here.”

CNN has reached out to the Justice Department and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit for comment.

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