WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The Justice Department and FBI are working to establish a task force to investigate and prosecute threats and attacks against educators.

Around the country, disagreements over mask and vaccine mandates in schools are sparking harassment and threats of violence. The DOJ called it a “disturbing trend.”

“Educators who are teaching in their classroom are threatened, punched,” said National Education Association President Becky Pringle, “they’re living in fear.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland said he’s directing the FBI to create a task force to investigate and prosecute the threats and violence against educators.

Pringle said the measures are necessary.

“This is a complex issue, it’s a systemic issue, and so he wants to bring the best thinking in terms of how to resolve it,” she said.

Rep. William Timmons (R-SC) agreed it’s important to enforce the law.

“So if anyone is attacking anyone physically or making them feel unsafe, we need to hold those people accountable,” Timmons said.

Timmons said he thinks people should get vaccinated but added that he understands the frustration over mandates.

“There’s a lot of arguments on all sides of masks and the efficacy of children wearing masks in schools and I think those decisions should be left to the parents,” he said.

Pringle hopes law enforcement and the public will help lower tensions and keep educators safe.

“I would ask that everyone do everything they can to ensure they have what they need, that they support them, that they keep them safe,” said Timmons.