DOJ’s Call for Investigations into Parent-led Activism Regarding School Boards Will Stymie Civic Participation and Encourage Political Intolerance

For Immediate Release

October 5, 2021

SAN DIEGO, CA – October 5, 2021- Californians for Equal Rights Foundation (CFER), representing a growing and diverse network of grassroots supporters united by a shared cause for equal rights, is deeply concerned about a new development from the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) to launch a series of efforts against parent-led activism that seeks transparency, accountability and open communication. CFER is particularly alarmed by DOJ’s categorical allegation of grassroots activities at the school district level as “criminal conduct,” and how this call for federal investigations can gravely discourage civic participation. 

“In response to community demands for more transparency and parental access to controversial educational activities, CFER has engaged in local organizing and awareness building on issues such as ethnic studies, critical race theory and racial preferences,” commented Frank Xu, the president of CFER. “DOJ’s announcement will embolden political repression of free speech and criminalize civil dissent, a vital component of our democracy. In all our local campaigns, CFER and its parent supporters have practiced peaceful assembly. On several occasions, we have worked with school board personnel to empower community members with knowledge and dialogues. The DOJ development will have a chilling effect on this bottom-up movement!”

In the summer of 2021, CFER became a key community partner to the Orange County Board of Education (OCBE) in helping facilitate two successful expert forums on ethnic studies and critical race theory (CRT). In response to unexpected disruptions to a school board meeting in Poway Unified School District on Sep. 9th from an unrelated group, CFER issued a statement criticizing “riotous elements to hijack and compromise any bottom-up, authentic movement.” DOJ’s position endorsing claims smearing parents as criminals will undoubtedly create a chasm between elected officials and their constituents, while eroding the constitutional rights of private citizens, community members and parents to hold these officials accountable to a quality public education. 

On Oct. 4th, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memorandum, condemning “harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff,” and directing the FBI in partnership with state and local law enforcement to address these threats. Following the memo, the DOJ announced the initiative to protect school board personnel against crimes against them. This development came as a direct response from the federal government to a Sep. 29th letter by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) requesting federal law enforcement assistance into parents’ “attacks” regarding CRT and masks. Not only did the NSBA collectively shame separate focal points of rising grassroots events as “domestic terrorism” and “hate crimes,” it but also cherry-picked a tiny fraction of minor incidents at school board meetings to unfairly vilify ordinary parents. 

Contrary to the victim narrative promoted by DOJ to coddle school board personnel, lack of responsiveness and accountability on the part of many public-school authorities has prompted a growing number of parents to speak at open meetings and seek legitimate channels to express their concerns. On Apr. 9th, CFER represented a group of parents, educators and taxpayers in San Diego in a civil rights complaint regarding San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). Instead of conducting a thorough and proper investigation within a 60-day window by Jun. 8th, SDUSD has consistently refused to work with CFER and ignored our requests for further contact. 

On Oct. 1st, CFER joined 20 organizations in a response to NSBA’s fear-mongering and collective-shaming letter. Going forward, CFER will stand with our parent and community supporters in the unifying and broad-based movement against toxic racial divisions and political indoctrination in our public education system. We also encourage those who are targeted by political intolerance and silencing to reach out to CFER at info@cferfoundation.org. CFER will continue to provide knowledge, resources and support to our members and volunteers in their admirable quest for a better future for the next generation.

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Contact:

Wenyuan Wu

wenyuan.wu@cferfoundation.org

(786) 393-8028

About Californians for Equal Rights Foundation (CFER): We are a non-partisan and non-profit organization established following the defeat of Proposition 16 in 2020, with a mission to defend and raise public awareness on the cause of equal rights through public education, civic engagement and community outreach. In 1996, California became the first U.S. state to amend its constitution by passing Proposition 209 to ban racial discrimination and preferences. Prop. 209 requires that “the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” CFER is dedicated to educating the public on this important constitutional principle of equal treatment. www.Cferfoundation.org.  

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