Vermont parents feel threatened by FBI investigation

By Guy Page

The federal government’s unprecedented threat of an FBI crackdown on school board critics has cowed many Vermont parents concerned about mandatory student masking, anti-mandate advocate Jim Sexton said Wednesday.

Sexton said that last month he was in contact with about 100 Vermont parents who had already spoken up at school board meetings or were preparing to do so.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

Michael Hall, left, and Jim Sexton address a patriot rally held during the summer at the Vermont Statehouse.

Enthusiasm ebbed after U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland published an Oct. 4 memo seeming to warn outspoken parents.

“In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff,” Garland wrote.  “[The DOJ] is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate. In the coming days, the Department will announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.”

Garland offered no documentation of the “disturbing spike.” Nevertheless he directed the FBI to work with state and local law enforcement “for the benefit of our nation’s nearly 14,000 public school districts.”

RELATED: U.S. attorney general cites no actual threats of violence in directives targeting Americans

Since then? “Massive exodus,” Sexton said, “70% of them aren’t fighting anymore.”

According to available video footage, Sexton and others have not yelled, screamed or threatened violence. This VT Digger video of a Sept. 24 Franklin County school board meeting shows board-public interactions that are spirited but not generally civil and definitely not threatening.

The same is true nationwide. The one incident of physical violence listed by Garland’s supporters concerned a Sept. 2 incident in which a Mendon, Illinois, man was arrested for striking a police officer who was escorting him from a school board meeting. However, the media coverage does not say why the man was upset, or what was being discussed at the meeting.

Sexton and for now about 20 others will continue to show up at school board meetings to oppose the mandates, arguing that children are healthier and learn better without masks.

Other groups continue to directly challenge school boards. Ben Morley, a vocal opponent of Critical Race Theory, insists there is harrassment — of parents.

“I have not seen any harassment or threats towards school board members, teachers, or administrators, but I have seen a clear attempt to assign guilt and make accusations against parents and community members based on political rhetoric,” Morley said. “It’s as if the districts’ leadership want to accuse others of causing harm and grouping individuals together to assign blame. Ultimately this shifts the narrative away from their own actions, to avoid accountability. It’s a political strategy used by leadership.”

“We The Parents,” a new citizen group opposing both CRT and mask mandates, will rally Saturday, Oct. 23 on the Vermont State House lawn.

Meanwhile, Sexton encourages Vermonters to stand on their First Amendment constitutional rights “peaceable to assemble” and petition the government about their grievances.

“You don’t lose until you stop trying,” Sexton said.

Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

26 thoughts on “Vermont parents feel threatened by FBI investigation

  1. Having been on both sides as a Selectboard Chair hearing from the public at times at contentcious meetings and as a bit of a gadfly challenging officials, most recently regarding our Supervisory Union’s proposed anti-racism policy, there are a few things I have learned.

    First, is that there is often a reluctance for public officials, who tend to believe they already have the answers, to view public comments as a bit of a distraction at best and a downright nuceince at worst.

    Second, public officials do best when they take the time to thoughtfully listen concerns and modify their actions when these concerns make sense. This has been the case regarding our Supervisory Union’s draft anti-racism policy now in its 5th draft.

    Third, the public is best heard and listened too when public officials are addressed in a respectful manner and reasonable alternatives are presented. Demands, while more satisfying to present, usually end up with the hardening of possitions.

    Finally, just because people show up at a meeting and express concerns does not mean that you will get your way. Changing public policy is often a long and time consuming effort ( change comes the most when you get yourself elected) and rarely does any one individual get exactly what they want.

      • Jim,
        The memo from the Attorney General referred to protecting officials from “violence, threats of violence and other forms of intimidation and harrassment”. One would hope and expect this to be provided to all public officials regardes of their political leanings as there has been an escalation far beyond what is reasonable in a civil democratic society on all sides.

        • John,

          The point is that Garland’s memo is based on trumped-up charges of harassment and threats that can be easily handled by local authorities.

          Parents have every right to protest some of what’s going on. They even have a right to be angry.

          It’s absurd for the federal government and FBI to get involved in this against the parents. Of course parents are going to protest what what feel are intrusive and unwarranted material being presented to their children. That’s none of the AG’s business. Any local threats can be handled by local authorities, period.

        • This is some of what’s going on.

          It’s really unbelievable. No wonder there’s protest. But Garland wants to go after the protesters!

          So if this is in some of our libraries, under the radar, then it’s not hard to imagine that progressive ideas of CRT are under the radar, too, promoted by people who are certain they’re spreading justice. In our local rag, it’s unbelievable how people react to CRT as if it’s the incarnation of righteousness instead of racism in sheep’s clothing. They pretend that all the protest is because some people don’t like it that they’re teaching the history of racism. This isn’t even close to the real point of the protests.

      • Sockpuppet Alert: Hilarious! red-pilled “Jim” concern-trolls siamese twin blue-pilled John lol – it’s an epidemic on TNR. Textbook example of what happens when ya crash a comment platform diamatrically opposed to worldview and not well received, must create own environment and ‘friends’.

        • stardust, I thought your lunacy over this had been dispelled. But you’re right: I’m actually John and I have nothing better to do with my time than make up my own opponents.

    • Re: “Changing public policy is often a long and time consuming effort ( change comes the most when you get yourself elected) and rarely does any one individual get exactly what they want.”


      The problem is that the public education system places diametrically opposed philosophies in the same organization and expects compromise or submission from the participants. And there are dozens of opposing philosophies. Not just the pros and cons of CRT. This phenomenon has been characterized over and again as a one-size-fits-all proposition, whether or not one compromises or submits. When protest is inevitable, frustration is the result.

      The question I continue to ask (of both John and Jim) is, – when will the participants realize that allowing School Choice for all parents eliminates this dysfunction? Why do those in favor of CRT feel that they should force everyone to follow CRT? Why do those who disagree with CRT feel that everyone should eliminate CRT? And why does everyone else demand compromise? Why can’t we have our cake, and eat it too?

      And please don’t tell me you both favor School Choice. If you do, exercise it. If people like AG Garland, the National School Boards Association, and the myriad special interest groups that profit from this dysfunction, including the State legislators and executives who enable them, are now characterizing you and your children as racists, white supremacists, and domestic terrorist, why in the world can’t you come together and at least allow yourselves to choose your own poison?

      Listen up. This dysfunction is now resonating with the students. And not just in their long-standing poor academics. Yes, thirty-nine percent of our high school graduates don’t meet grade level standards in math. Yes, we spend as much to educate these students as it costs to send an in-state student to Castleton University for a year. Including association fees. Including student resource fees. INCLUDING Room and Board!

      But now:
      “Across Vermont, teachers and school staff face a surge in student misbehavior, school officials say, with teachers at some schools even voicing fears about the safety of staff and students.”

      What’s it going to take before we realize that School Choice is the ONLY avenue to correct this dysfunction? And if you agree, why aren’t you focusing on making School Choice a reality for all parents?

      • Jay, I agree with school choice. If that’s the solution, then I’m all for it. To be honest I know little of the debate behind school choice or what the options are at present.

        Perhaps you could write a commentary on school choice to educate some of us. How would that work on the local level? What are the obstacles to it? Any links to info?

        The concern at present is why the AG feels it’s necessary to interfere with matters that are easily solved on the local level, regarding supposed threats by parents against teachers and administrators.

        • Oh dear. Where to begin? Jim, I’ve been writing about School Choice on this TNR forum since TNR was established. I’ve written dozens of commentaries on the subject. So, as an introduction, consider taking the time to watch this TNR ‘Travels with Charlie’ episode.

          Then, let me start with your current concern – “why the AG feels it’s necessary to interfere with matters that are easily solved on the local level, regarding supposed threats by parents against teachers and administrators”.

          How do you envision that these ‘matters’ can be easily solved on the local level? Try to be specific.

          • Jay, I’m relatively new to TNR– probably less than a year. Some things I’ve not yet taken much interest in as there are other pressing issues and only so much time in a day.

            Regarding local solutions to local matters: if there are threats to people, then the local police/sheriff can get involved. That’s the issue, is it not? Actual threats of physical violence. The issue of Garland’s interference involves these threats.

            You seem to think that I refer to “local matters” as the tension between parents and teachers/administrators about what’s taught. I do not. I refer to “local matters” as the purported violence against teachers/administrators, as this purported violence is the focus of the AG’s interference.

            Specific enough?

          • Re: Specific enough?

            No. What’s the difference between the so-called ‘threats of violence’ against teachers/administrators and the actual violence perpetrated against the daughter of the man who attended the Virginia school board meeting to complain about it?

          • Not sure what your point is. Are you advocating for the US AG and the FBI to get involved in local school affairs to protect administrators from threats of violence? Are you advocating for the feds to police local school disputes?

            The headline is “Vermont parents feel threatened by FBI investigation.” Are you saying this is a good thing? Are you saying the FBI should be threatening the other side, or both sides equally? Is this sort of federal interference appropriate?

            At this point I honestly don’t understand where you’re coming from, except that you think school choice could solve a lot of problems. I take no issue at all with that position and have no argument against it. But I see that as irrelevant to what’s happening in the here-and-now; namely, that parents who protest actions the schools are taking with regards to their children are being threatened by the AG through trumped-up and vague charges, and this looks a lot like deliberate and undue intimidation.

          • Please, Jim. You obfuscate. My point is, and has always been, that School Choice will alleviate the intimidation we both seem to agree exists – and more. My difficulty is in trying to explain why that’s the case – as you requested.

            “Perhaps you could write a commentary on school choice to educate some of us. How would that work on the local level? What are the obstacles to it? Any links to info?”

            But you persist in seeing School Choice “…as irrelevant to what’s happening in the here-and-now; namely, that parents who protest actions the schools are taking with regards to their children are being threatened by the AG through trumped-up and vague charges, and this looks a lot like deliberate and undue intimidation.”

            No. School Choice is NOT irrelevant. I’ll try another tack. Consider these questions, rhetorical as they may be.

            If these parents had the right, and the financial wherewithal provided by a tuition voucher, to choose the education program they believe best meets the needs of their children:

            -Would this circumstance, a policy allowing a teenage boy to wear a dress and use a girl’s bathroom, have existed without the parent’s knowledge of the policy?

            -Would the parents, knowing that this policy exists, have considered the risks the policy created that were potentially detrimental to the safety of their daughter?

            -Would the parents, who in their failure to assume the parental responsibility listed above, not realizing that this policy existed, nor understanding the risks inherent in it (as one would reasonably expect them to assume), have complacently accepted ‘local control’ after:
            – complaining to the school Superintendent, who denied the rape occurred?
            – complaining to the School Board that tried to cover-up the circumstance?
            – trusting local law enforcement when it released the alleged perpetrator, who allegedly committed the same crime at the public school to which he was transferred?
            – or trusted local law enforcement while being arrested, at the behest of the School Board, for becoming emotional about his daughter’s rape, its cover-up, and the subsequent repeat offense to one of his neighbor’s daughters at the other public school?

            What Merrick Garland did, at the behest of the National School Boards Association, was continue the intimidation that began with the local school administrators, its School Board, and local law enforcement. It all began ‘locally’.

            The answer to these questions is, of course, that with School Choice, the parents would likely not have chosen this school in the first place. And if they did, if they failed to consider what they were buying, they would have learned a hard lesson and moved their daughter to another education program that they believed better met the needs of their daughter. And so too would every parent, by virtue of what free markets describe as word-of-mouth, the customer’s testimonial. Caveat emptor.

            But without School Choice, parents are condemned to a public-school monopoly. Conflict is inevitable. One size doesn’t fit all – never has. If not with ‘gender fluidity’, then Critical Race Theory, or student discipline in general – not to mention that half of Vermont’s high school graduates don’t meet minimum grade level standards.

            And this is nothing new, Jim. My wife and I served on our local school boards. We have witnessed this dysfunction firsthand for decades. And there are definitive examples throughout Vermont of School Choice governance being the panacea I’m claiming it is – if only those concerned would stop losing sight of the forest for the trees.

          • Jay, I agree with everything you said. My concern is with apparent attempts to create a police state as is happening in Australia through Covid restrictions, as was attempted in America but was largely unsuccessful (except maybe in California and a few other states) and as seems to be attempted now in the intrusion of the US AG into local matters, as well as in the general demonization of those on the right who are more-and-more being characterized as “domestic terrorists” and therefore might need monitoring and policing.

            I don’t consider that I have any argument with you. A minor misunderstanding, maybe, but not worth pursuing on my part. Your comments on school choice are spot-on. Thanks for explaining.

          • The interesting part of this discussion, which is understandably based on my long advocacy for School Choice and my concession to having my own confirmation bias, is that – and I know you’ll consider this a stretch, at least at first – School Choice is the best way to prevent the police state that concerns us. School Choice is the key to saving our Republic. Marxist-Leninists, Leftists and Socialists of all stripes, know this. It’s why they began to focus on our education system 100 or more years ago.

            “School is the cheapest police.” Horace Mann.

            “Give me just one generation of youth, and I’ll transform the whole world.” Vladimir Lenin

            “Education is a weapon the effect of which is determined by the hands which wield it, by who is to be struck down.” Joseph Stalin

            “The education of all children, from the moment that they can get along without a mother’s care, shall be in state institutions.” Karl Marx

            “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Governor

            Jim, the U. S. Constitution is humankind’s first establishment of a balance of power between the various houses of any government of, by, and for the people, emphasizing the importance of individual liberty, freedom, self-determination, and justice. Nowhere in the Constitution is a uniform public education system ever mentioned. The public education monopoly is the creation of those who seek to gain power through coercion and mob rule, and it has become our Constitution’s radical and evil antithesis.

            “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which). The first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom…. was Lucifer.” Saul Alinsky

  2. The goal is to install a police state.

    This is one more tactic, one more fabrication, so that (among other things) the more authoritarian elements within police forces are able to use violence against citizens “breaking the law” and get away with it. This physical violence by the police– not civil warnings or polite requests prior to advancing to forceful measures– creates fear. This is happening in Australia and other countrie due to harsh and unnecessary Covid-19 restrictions, and if Covid restrictions are fading in America, our Attorney General has decided that it’s time for the federal government to step in to ensure that purely local matters are settled to the fed’s satisfaction, and with federal power if locals won’t submit, and he’s doing this through fabricated physical threats to school officials and children. The fabrication of this grave danger, however, serves only to justify the expansion of the police state: that’s its sole purpose.

    We can look back and see the purpose behind suppressing early treatment for Covid-19 and for jacking up the numbers of Covid deaths: to allow for Covid to progress and therefore for “necessary” police measures to control the (manufactured) health crisis (there’s an excellent chance that with early treatment– without censoring doctors who found ways to prevent serious disease– Covid-19 would simply be another flu.) Not satisfied to attack on one front, now a front is being opened against parents who dare to oppose CRT theory, explicit sexual content in school material, and/or masks for children.

    Many people are still under the illusion that what’s happening is coincidental or happenstance. Merrick Garland’s memo should be a wake-up call that the continued measures to curtail liberties and assert overwhelming state power aren’t innocent. Once the “necessary” measures are in place to prevent fabricated threats to school officials and teachers, certainly other threats will be found to justify even more necessary measures. Perhaps the feds will make sure that dangerous right-wingers are neutralized before they can cause serious harm to our democracy? Maybe outlets like TNR will be targeted for inciting violence, or some other fabricated charge?

    Political philosophy professor C. Bradley Thompson has written a timely book on the ideas behind the American revolution, and also an essay on the installation of a police state in America:

  3. Re: “…every student in Vermont should be afforded the opportunity to learn in an environment that supports their academic success…”.

    And how’s that working out?

    According to the Agency of Education’s recent performance assessments, our kids enter school with only 52.3% meeting grade level standards in third grade Math. I guess the public-school Pre-K, Kindergarten, First and Second grade Math curriculum doesn’t do so well after all. Unfortunately, by the time they reach 9th grade, only 34.9% of them meet grade level standards in Math. Meanwhile, the State has stopped testing students in 11th grade (as they have in the past – just before they graduate). I wonder why?

    And, oh yes, I almost forgot to mention, Vermont taxpayers spend about as much to educate these students each year as it costs to send an in-state college student to Castleton University for a full year college course load, including student association fees, student resource fees, … and, get this, including Room and Board too.

    But at least we know 90% of our kids are learning that individual merit is discriminatory, that they are beneficiaries of white privilege, they are inherently racist, and anyone protesting the characterization and its assignment are domestic terrorists (their words).

    My advice: if you don’t get your kids out of the public-school monopoly now, you have only yourselves to blame for the consequences. Do whatever it takes. Get them out. Now.

  4. Using the long standing tool of communism, Zersetzung:

    “Zersetzung (German; variously translated as decomposition, corrosion, undermining, biodegradation or dissolution) was a psychological technique of the East German secret police, the Stasi used to silence political opponents. The “measures of Zersetzung”, defined in the framework of a directive on police procedures in 1976, were used in the context of so-called “operational procedures” (in German Operative Vorgänge or OV). They replaced the overt terror of the Ulbricht era.

    The practice of repression in Zersetzung comprised extensive and secret methods of control and psychological manipulation, including personal relationships of the target, for which the Stasi relied on its network of informal collaborators, (in German inoffizielle Mitarbeiter or IM), the State’s power over institutions, and on operational psychology. Using targeted psychological attacks the Stasi tried to deprive a dissident of any chance of a “hostile action”.

    The use of Zersetzung is well documented, thanks to numerous Stasi files published after East Germany’s Wende. Several thousands, or up to 10,000 individuals are estimated to have become victims: 5,000 of whom sustained irreversible damage. Pensions for restitution have been created for the victims.”

  5. Time to get rid of the FIB and Homeland and CIA the fathers wanted a government afraid of the people not us afraid of the government.. proving yet again leftist are just modern day Nazi’s and bydens handlers are little Hitlers…

  6. Parents: Catholic School Enrollment is up 8 % in Vermont alone this year!!! It has increased in all fifty states across the board.

    Get your kids out of VT public schools ASAP & have the state send you credit to pay the tuition for a Catholic school education — A.H. vs French – GO PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS, PARENTS!

  7. The progressive left is scared, parents are starting to see the nonsense being taught
    in our schools with them trying to indoctrinate the children…….

    So what does the progressive left do, send in the ” Gestapo ” to try to intimidate the parents,
    just as a mother bear will protect its cubs at any cost, so will Mothers protect their children
    and intimidation from the ” FEDS” will not deter !!!

    Now let’s vote these fools out

  8. Intimidation is a significant characteristic of Fascism, e.g. Antifa, Camichie Nere, BLM, Sturmabteilung, repressive enforcement by federal agencies – all tools of Progressive movements. What but intimidation is Merrick Garland imposing? And the Progressives wanted THIS (Constitution be damned) to be a Supreme court Justice?

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