On Friday, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) apologized for a letter in which it equated concerned parents with “domestic terrorists” and urged the FBI to investigate them via the Patriot Act. This about-face has left the Department of Justice in a tight spot.

Indeed, just one day before the NSBA rescinded its letter, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland testified to Congress that he had directed the DOJ and FBI to investigate parents in reliance on the original NSBA letter.

The since-retracted letter was startling in its request for federal law enforcement oversight of concerned parents. Specifically, the NSBA requested that the DOJ, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service and the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center all be deployed against parents. The organization likened parents concerned about school curricula, COVID-19 protocols and the safety of their children to “a form of domestic terrorism.” The NSBA cited a panoply of federal laws it thought should be deployed against parents, including the Patriot Act—a terrorism-related statute that was enacted in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Instead of rejecting the NSBA’s absurd request to deploy such broad-ranging federal power against concerned parents, the DOJ issued a memorandum directing the FBI and U.S. attorneys to convene meetings to discuss “strategies for addressing threats.”

Attorney General Garland’s testimony last week underscores the blatant federal overreach in directing the FBI to investigate parents who are concerned about school curricula. When pressed about the rape of two high school girls in two separate Loudoun County schools, the attorney general demurred, saying he has no knowledge of the national drama playing out in his literal backyard. Garland then tried to explain his ignorance of the situation by referring to the circumstances as “a state case.”

There’s just one problem. The NSBA letter that Attorney General Garland says he read and admits prompted him to call for the federal investigation of concerned parents cited the father of one of the Loudoun County victims as an example of so-called “domestic terrorism.”

The nation has since learned why Scott Smith, the individual arrested at the Loudoun County school board meeting, was so upset. His daughter was raped in a high school bathroom by a biological boy wearing a skirt—and that rape was covered up by the school system. At a June 22 school board meeting, Loudoun County Public Schools superintendent Scott Ziegler denied there had been any sexual assaults in school bathrooms when directly asked. Yet in a since-released email sent by Ziegler to the Loudoun County School Board on May 28, he informed school board members, “This afternoon a female student alleged that a male student sexually assaulted her in the restroom” at Stone Bridge High School.

Further, if multiple rapes occurring in multiple public high schools don’t merit the DOJ’s attention, one wonders why the DOJ is willing to call in the FBI to investigate parents who express their concerns at local school board meetings. One doesn’t have to look far to see the hypocrisy of referring to student rape as a “state” matter while simultaneously calling on the FBI to knock on the door of concerned parents.

Garland’s testimony last week highlighted the overreach in applying federal terrorism laws to parents concerned about their children’s schools—the most local of all issues in our system of governance. The use of violence against school board members is of course unlawful, and states have jurisdiction over such crimes. But concerned parents like Mr. Smith are not “domestic terrorists.” And they should not be treated as such.

The threat of FBI investigation chills the First Amendment speech rights of parents exercising their fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children. The attorney general should rescind his memorandum, preferably before he testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee later today.