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Senator Dick Durbin Likens Parents Swearing at School Board Members to January 6 Rioters

Sen. Dick Durbin, (D., Ill.) gives opening remarks before testimony by Attorney General Merrick Garland during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., October 27, 2021. (Tasos Katopodis/Pool/Reuters)

Senator Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) on Wednesday compared parents who have yelled profanities at school board members and ripped off masks to those who mobbed the Capitol on January 6.

Durbin’s comments came during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Attorney General Merrick Garland in which the senator suggested that concerned parents were committing acts of domestic terror. The accusation comes from a letter the National School Board Association wrote requesting federal intervention to probe and potentially prosecute parents found guilty of threatening school administrators. However, the NSBA later backtracked on its original request and issued an apology statement reversing its characterization of parent protests at school board meetings as “domestic terrorism.”

However, Durbin doubled down on the charge on Wednesday.

“I invite the members of this committee, if you don’t believe me, type school board violence into your computer and take a look at what is happening,” Durbin said.

He listed several examples of outbursts by frustrated parents, including parents who yelled profanities at school board members, a parent who ripped off a Texas teacher’s face mask and several incidents where parents physically hit board members or made additional threats. 

“These are not routine people incensed or angry, these are people who are acting out their feelings in a violent manner, over and over again. The same people we see on airplanes and other places, some of whom we saw here on Jan. 6,” Durbin said.

He noted that the NSBA had compared the incidents to domestic terrorism in its original letter before it later issued an apology saying “there was no justification for some of the language included in this letter.”

Still, Garland formed a task force to investigate alleged threats school-board members had received from parents and the attorney general said Wednesday he does not plan to disband the task force despite the NSBA’s reversal.

Durbin then asked Garland: “So when you responded as quickly as you did to that school board request, did you have second thoughts after they sent a follow-up letter saying they didn’t agree with their original premise in the first letter?”

“I think all of us have seen these reports of violence and threats of violence. That is what the Justice Department is concerned about,” Garland said. “The letter that was subsequently sent does not change the association’s concern about violence or threats of violence. It alters some of the language in the letter. Language in the letter that we did not rely on and is not contained in my own memorandum. The only thing the Justice Department is concerned about is violence and threats of violence.”

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