One reason Kristi Noem loses court cases is that she doesn’t really understand the First Amendment.
On her way out the door to another out-of-state campaign trip, our part-time Governor Twitter-whined that United States Attorney General Merrick Garland is using “intimidation tactics against parents who speak up at School Board mtgs” and “exercise 1st Amend. rights…”:
Attorney General Garland is directing the FBI and U.S. Attorneys to look into the violence, threatened and real, that teachers and school boards across the country are experiencing, largely from people inspired by leaders like Noem and language like Noem’s that tell them schools are the enemy and masks and vaccines aren’t necessary to fight coronavirus:
In a six-page letter to President Biden last week, the National School Boards Association detailed instances of threats and acts of violence (mostly related to mask mandates) at school board meetings in states including California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Texas and Virginia.
It says such conduct — whether at local meetings or threats sent through mail and social media — endangers students and educators and disrupts school district operations, and notes the growing threat of “extremist hate organizations showing up at school board meetings.” As NPR’s Anya Kamenetz has reported, these protests are increasingly being coordinated by national groups like Let Them Breathe.
“As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” the school boards association wrote, asking for federal help investigating and preventing them [Rachel Treisman, “The Justice Department Will Address Threats Against School Officials and Staff,” NPR, 2021.10.05].
How topsy-turvy can Noem’s conception of the First Amendment be when she thinks people standing on a highway protesting a polluting pipeline are rioters and terrorists but cranks getting physical at school board meetings and punching teachers over pandemic precautions are engaged in free speech?
As Attorney General Garland makes clear, we have an obligation to defend educators, the law, and American values from this kind of blatant domestic terrorism:
“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” wrote Attorney General Garland. “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” [United States Department of Justice, press release, 2021.10.04].
The Justice Department is not trying to intimidate any parents who chill any free speech. The Justice Department is actually helping schools distinguish protected First Amendment activity from illegal threats:
…The Justice Department will also create specialized training and guidance for local school boards and school administrators. This training will help school board members and other potential victims understand the type of behavior that constitutes threats, how to report threatening conduct to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, and how to capture and preserve evidence of threatening conduct to aid in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes.
Threats of violence against school board members, officials, and workers in our nation’s public schools can be reported by the public to the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center (NTOC) via its national tip line (1-800-CALL-FBI) and online through the FBI website (http://fbi.gov/tips). To ensure that threats are communicated to the appropriate authorities, NTOC will direct credible threats to FBI field offices, for coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and law enforcement partners as appropriate. Reporting threats of violence through NTOC will help the federal government identify increased threats in specific jurisdictions as well as coordinated widespread efforts to intimidate educators and education workers [USDOJ, 2021.10.04].
Attorney General Garland is defending the Constitution and public education. Governor Noem is only fanning the flames of the ignorance and thuggery that is apparently her party’s last resort for retaining power.