by Bob Barr
In one breath, liberals call local police “racists” and demand their departments be defunded, and in the very next they rush to federal law enforcement agencies for help at the slightest hint of trouble. This is the whipsaw effect of how the Left views law enforcement – local cops bad, federal cops good. It is a perspective totally at odds with the framework on which our federal Republic was constructed.
Consider our public schools.
Leftists for years have fought tooth and nail to remove resource officers from schools, claiming their presence is “detrimental to the welfare of our children, leading to the increased criminalization of youth for child-like behaviors” (ACLU of Washington). And yet, as The Intercept reports, last month school district officials in Maryland’s Prince George’s County reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for help with monitoring the social media accounts of students, in hopes of curbing an outbreak of violence in two area high schools.
The Deep State’s abuses of national security powers in our post-9/11 world are numerous and well-known, from the Bush Administration’s unconstitutional directive to cell phone carriers to conduct warrantless surveillance of customers’ phones, to the continued use of the USA PATRIOT Act for investigations having nothing to do with national security. This mindset now has filtered down to community school board meetings.
Even in the face of severe criticism, for the Biden administration, it’s “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” Attorney General Merrick Garland refuses to rescind his recent directive that the FBI and United States Attorneys across the country develop plans to address disruptions at local school board meetings.
No serious debate today can be had that using federal law enforcement’s powers and resources to monitor local school board meetings or the social media activity of students fits within any reasonable or historically permissible definition of “federal jurisdiction.” It is a recipe for a terribly unappetizing constitutional banquet – federal law enforcement agencies with a history of abuse and a systemic lack of accountability, secretly surveilling the protected rights of students and parents, in defense of the “woke” agenda favored by many public-school administrators and teachers.
Being the target of a federal investigation is no casual matter. The mere possibility that your presence at a school board meeting may be monitored by police and the FBI has a decided chilling effect on such activities; as does the fact that social media posts are being monitored by the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to this chilling effect, the legal resources needed to defend oneself in any resulting federal investigations can easily drain the finances of all but the most well-off families.
Working-class families in Prince George’s County, who are most likely to be swept up in Homeland Security’s most recent dragnet, do not stand a chance. Nevertheless, the irony of using the full weight of the federal government to pursue targets least able to defend themselves, appears no longer relevant to the “woke” liberals behind this madness.
Making the situation even more irksome is that school officials are pursuing this sledgehammer-to-kill-a-mosquito plan because they find themselves in a situation of their own making, after years of removing resource officers from schools even as they turned a blind eye to troublemakers for fear of “labeling” the students as “troublemakers” or being branded “racist” themselves.
The trend of leaning on federal agencies for local issues did not start under Joe Biden, but his Administration, with the active support of Attorney General Garland, has taken it to a new and dangerous level.
This scenario playing out in public schools and school boards across the country is not occurring in a vacuum. Rather, it reflects a broad national phenomenon decades in the making, of a citizenry increasingly comfortable calling on the government to solve every problem and to meet every need. In this environment, where the “default” is to call on Uncle Sam, it is not only appropriate to bring in federal law enforcement to address problems within community school districts, it is the preferred solution.
When the Left sees everything from racism to bullying to global warming as a national emergency, there is no activity in which citizens engage that can be considered safe from the heavy hand of federal power.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.