Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the Virginia governor’s race has further energized parent activists mobilized against woke ideology in schools, leaders emphasized at a chilly Tuesday morning rally outside the U.S. Capitol. 

“You all act,” said Nicole Neily, president of the national grassroots organization Parents Defending Education. “You are not content to just take what is being done to your children. You are fighting. And I’m so proud to have you in my foxhole.”

Spurred on by their success in rousing Virginia voters against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe and his radical education stances, parents, activists, and Republican lawmakers gathered at the “Government Is NOT a Co-Parent” rally hosted by the Independent Women’s Network.

Mere hours after the rally, The Wall Street Journal reported that the head of the FBI’s Criminal and Counterterrorism divisions ordered agents on Oct. 20 to identify threats against school board members and teachers with a “threat tag.” 

The move came after Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the Justice Department and the FBI in early October to investigate parents who seemingly pose threats of violence to public school officials. Garland’s order was prompted by a letter from the National School Boards Association, which was in communication with the White House before the letter was sent. 

Garland’s actions ignited a political firestorm—one that proved a boon for Youngkin, now Virginia’s governor-elect. Youngkin joined activists in harnessing outrage over potential Justice Department investigations of parents, and the activists at Tuesday’s rally promised to carry that momentum into schools across the nation. 

“Congress is coming back to town,” Independent Women’s Forum President Carrie Lukas told The Daily Signal on Tuesday morning. “They’re pushing for not only another spending bill, but a bill that would tremendously grow government. We’ve been hearing a lot about parents’ concerns about their schools, their K-12 schools, and what’s going on in public education.”

“Parents are just as concerned about the federal government’s overreach,” added Lukas, the mother of five school-aged children, “whether that’s unconstitutional mandates, a takeover of the child care and preschool center, or runaway spending that is threatening to bankrupt our country and leave our kids with a profoundly less free and less prosperous society.” 

Speakers included Asra Nomani, the vice president of strategy and investigations at Parents Defending Education; Fight for Schools President Ian Prior; WMAL radio host Larry O’Connor; and several parent activists who rose to public prominence during the gubernatorial election campaign. 

“This all started at school board meetings, when parents wanted their kids back in the classrooms, and they were angry at their elected representatives, who couldn’t figure out how to get it done,” O’Connor said. “You know, we could go to a restaurant or Home Depot, but we couldn’t get our kids in the classroom. That was frustrating.” 

“This predates the Virginia election,” he continued. “The Virginia election reflects the energy and the passion that these voters have. But it absolutely transcends what just happened a couple of weeks ago.” 

Independent Women’s Network contributor Ginny Gentles told The Daily Signal that Youngkin’s victory was “extremely encouraging and exciting for parents who finally felt heard.” 

But he has a “lot of work to do,” she noted. 

“In Virginia, schools were primarily closed in most areas,” she said, adding:

Students suffered, and the parents suffered, and families struggled.

Youngkin’s victory showed that he ran a campaign that was plugged into the frustration of parents. He was listening to parents, and he has assured them that he is going to keep the schools open.

He’s not going to let academic standards be lowered, and he’s going to ensure that the chaos of the classrooms is addressed.

Fight for Schools President Ian Prior speaks at the Tuesday rally on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Independent Women’s Network)

Xi Van Fleet, a parent activist and speaker at the rally, told The Daily Signal that she immigrated at age 26 to the United States from China, where she had experienced communism firsthand. 

Van Fleet slammed critical race theory in schools as “Marxist ideology,” saying that she has seen and experienced “all this” before. 

“It’s [a] fight over our future,” she said, “that’s our children. And the issue is indoctrination.” 

“The variation is, when I was in China, the division was done using class. And now, the division is done using race,” Van Fleet said.

“And a lot of people don’t understand what’s at stake,” she said, adding:

The people who know history know what happened in the end of the [Chinese] Cultural Revolution, which is exactly what’s happening now—a society totally divided, the economy ruined, traditional culture and 5,000 years of Chinese civilization wiped out, and 20 million people’s lives lost.

That is the ending of the Chinese Culture Revolution. And what’s happening here is the American version of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

A number of Republican lawmakers also joined the rally Tuesday, including Reps. Chip Roy of Texas, Claudia Tenney of New York, and Jim Banks of Indiana, who highlighted legislation in Congress that would ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates for children. 

The lawmakers heavily criticized government efforts to impose COVID-19 restrictions or woke ideology on children. 

Tenney called for continued efforts to fight the teaching of critical race theory in schools, highlighting the plight of families that cannot afford to pull their kids out of public schooling. 

“Though some of us can afford to maybe homeschool, or we can afford to go to private schools, think of the people out there who cannot afford this,” the congresswoman said. “Their children are being put in this situation where they are being taught critical race theory, where they’re being taught to hate each other.”

Shortly after the rally wrapped up, Christopher Rufo, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and anti-critical race theory activist, announced on social media that House Republicans had obtained documents showing that the FBI was searching for threats to school board members and teachers. 

“The purpose of the threat tag is to help scope this threat on a national level, and provide an opportunity for comprehensive analysis of the threat picture for effective engagement with law enforcement partners at all levels,” an email signed by FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Timothy Langan and the assistant director of the bureau’s Criminal Division, Calvin Shivers, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

“The FBI has never been in the business of investigating parents who speak out or policing speech at school board meetings, and we are not going to start now,” the FBI said Tuesday in a statement, the Journal reported. “We are fully committed to preserving and protecting First Amendment rights, including freedom of speech.”

Neily, the Parents Defending Education president, said Tuesday evening that the documents show that the FBI was “using counterterrorism tools to investigate concerned parents who have attended school board meetings—which directly contradicts Attorney General Merrick Garland’s sworn congressional testimony.” 

She added:

Not only has America’s education bureaucracy declared war on parents concerned about local schools, but so has the Department of Justice, which has weaponized the FBI against parents to chill their speech.

While it remains to be seen whether Attorney General Garland’s congressional testimony was incomplete or dishonest, the credibility of a storied federal agency has been thrown into question.

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