America First Legal Opens Investigation Into Merrick Garland’s Latest Attempt to Interfere With Parental Rights in Virginia

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, America First Legal (AFL) filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Department of Justice regarding the Roanoke County School Board in Virginia.

During a meeting in July 2023, Roanoke County Schools Superintendent Ken Nicely presented the new model policies to the board, which included critical provisions like ensuring students use the bathroom that corresponds to his or her sex and that schools may only change the legal name and sex of a student if the parent submits a legal document. 

In his presentation, Nicely was repeatedly interrupted by transgender activists in the meeting room who were yelling profanities in an attempt to disrupt the meeting. Despite repeated warnings from the school board chair, the activists continued their disruptive behavior until the chair asked the audience to leave the room so that the board could continue its business. While most activists peacefully left, a woman named Shannon Clawson refused to leave, repeatedly chanted “Protect trans kids,” and was arrested as several other activists joined the chant and surrounded the police officer escorting Clawson from the room. A second individual was later arrested after confronting the school board chairman. 

On July 31, 2023, Hannah Levine of the Department of Justice’s “Community Relations Service” sent an email to Roanoke County Public Schools, stating: “CRS is aware of ongoing community tensions in Roanoke County following the release of the new model policies for transgender students. I’d like to connect to see if we might be able to offer support and services as you work to manage conflict with the community related to this.” 

It is unclear why CRS would inject itself into an issue that is properly one for the Commonwealth of Virginia and Roanoke County Public Schools. What is clear, however, is that CRS has positioned itself not as a neutral arbitrator of issues related to transgenders but as a government entity that is fully behind the Biden Administration’s radical transgender agenda.

Further, the Department of Justice has already shown itself to be hostile to parental rights and the rights of biological girls to use sex-segregated bathrooms and compete in sex-segregated sports, which these model policies seek to vindicate. As you recall, the Attorney General issued a memo in October of 2021 asking the FBI and U.S. Attorneys to utilize federal resources and power to investigate parents for speaking at school board meetings. This was done in coordination with the National School Board Association, in part as an effort to help put a thumb on the scale for the Democrat nominee for governor, Terry McAuliffe, whose campaign was favorable to the transgender agenda and antagonistic to parental rights. Given the events related to the Roanoke County School Board meeting and the debate over the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies, the Department of Justice’s attempt to intervene in a non-federal matter, and recent attempts by the Department of Justice to oppose parental rights in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the public must understand the genesis of the Department’s interest in Roanoke County.

America First Legal will continue to fight for transparency and protection of parental rights under the law.

Statement from Ian Prior, America First Legal Senior Advisor:

“Attorney General Merrick Garland doesn’t appear to have learned any lessons after his 2021 memo directing US Attorneys and the FBI to investigate parents speaking at school board meetings. Now, the Department of Justice is seeking to intervene in another purely state and local matter, namely the Roanoke County School Board’s adoption of the Virginia Department of Education’s Model Policies that prohibit schools from forcing students, parents, and teachers to sacrifice their Constitutional rights in the name of transgender ideology. America First Legal will continue to serve as a watchdog over the Department of Justice’s continued attempts to interfere with parental rights on local issues,” said Ian Prior.

Read the FOIA here.

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