Oklahoma Attorney General speaks out on investigations into threats at school board meetings


OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Arguments over school protocols, procedures and curriculum during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to action in Washington. The Biden administration reportedly has asked the Department of Justice to look into threats against school boards at the request of the National School Boards Association, but state attorneys general are pushing back.

Everyone knows some school board meetings have been anything but pleasant in past the two years. Oklahoma’s top attorney says the federal government is going too far, but is the attorney general contradicting a new state law?

The National School Board Association says some school board meeting disputes are “Leading to harassment and threats of violence against school board members.”

On Sept. 29, the NSBA sent a letter to President Joe Biden, asking his administration to investigate these threats. Five days later, the Biden administration and the U.S. Attorney General asked the Department of Justice and FBI to investigate threats to school board members.

“I have no problem with law enforcement addressing crimes, but to bring the weight of the FBI into the conversation when these are very isolated events,” said Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor.

The Attorney General says there are only a handful of instances among the 14,000 school districts in the U.S. So on Monday, O’Connor joined 17 other state attorneys general in a letter to the Biden Administration, saying investigation by the FBI is going too far.

“I support parents that advocate for their children in a non-violent way and I call those parents heros for showing up and participating,” said O’Connor.

Photo goes with story
A heated situation at a meeting in Oklahoma County.

O’Connor points to the NSBA’s letter to the Biden administration that does state that threats against school board members “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes” that could be prosecuted under anti-terrorism and anti-hate crime statutes.

“This is the National School Board Association attempting to scare parents from showing up when every measure I’ve ever heard school boards have, begged parents to show up and participate in their children’s education,” said O’Connor.

We contacted the Oklahoma State School Board Association. They tell KFOR that they are not aware of any legitimate threats against any of their boards or board members. But opponents to O’Connor’s action warn caution.

“This is nothing but political grandstanding and a waste of taxpayer dollars. People could make the argument that not only are they disrupting political processes, but people could be physically threatened and verbally threatened and that’s not appropriate anywhere,” said State Rep. Mickey Dollens of Oklahoma City.

Back in the spring, the Oklahoma legislature passed SB 403. It prevents people from causing “disturbances, interference or disruption of political subdivision business.” Does that law apply to school board meetings? O’Connor says it does.

“We have maintained very consistent with Senate Bill 403. We are not advocating for violence, that’s not the American way. We support lawful input, lawful exercise of First Amendment rights,” O’Connor said.

We reached out to the authors of SB 403 for comment. They were either out of town or never got back to us.

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