School boards across the nation have complained about members of the public who create chaos at school board meetings: screaming, threatening violence, disrupting the proceedings. The National School Boards Association lodged a complaint with Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking for an investigation.

A large group of prominent rightwingers sent out a notice to parents and other allies, urging them to attend school board meetings. The leading voice who signed the letter is 89-year-old Ed Meese, former attorney general for Ronald Reagan.

Their letter begins:

Conservatives are deeply disturbed by the efforts of the Department of Justice to criminalize parental dissent at school board meetings. This is a dangerous and anti-democratic attempt at intimidation that should be vigorously opposed.

The DOJ has recently announced it will direct the FBI to investigate “threats of violence” at school board meetings. The announcement came just days after the National School Boards Association urged the Biden administration to invoke the Patriot Act against concerned parents, as they might be engaged in “domestic terrorism.”

This level of outright authoritarianism must be opposed. Parents not only pay for the instruction taking place in public schools, but as parents, have the right to know how and in what manner their children are being instructed. Those expressions of disagreement and demands for accountability are not only appropriate in a democratic society, but protected under the Constitution.

If Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Biden administration are going to make it their business to ban, demean, and belittle parents and citizens for engaging in protected speech in the institutions funded by their tax dollars, the response from concerned parents must be more speech, not less.