As the Biden-Harris Administration issues the first-ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, today, the U.S. Department of Education launched its Antisemitism Awareness Campaign among the first deliverables from the whole-of-society strategy. This effort will bring the full resources of the Department to bear to ensure all students – including Jewish students – are able to attend schools free from discrimination, including harassment.
"Antisemitism has no place in our society, and I am proud that the Department will continue to use all available tools to prevent and address antisemitic discrimination in our nation’s schools," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. "No student should have to face discrimination or harassment because of their race, color, national origin, shared ancestry, such as Jewish ancestry, or ethnic characteristics. The U.S. Department of Education is a civil rights agency committed to ensuring all students have access to learning environments that are welcoming, inclusive, and free of discrimination, and we are honored to unveil this awareness campaign as part of the Biden-Harris administration's National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism."
As part of this campaign, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today released a Dear Colleague Letter reminding schools of their legal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) to provide all students, including students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, a school environment free from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, including shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, or citizenship or residency in a country with a dominant religion or religious identity.
Schools must take immediate and appropriate action to respond to harassment that creates a hostile environment. OCR generally finds that a hostile environment exists where there is harassing conduct that is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.
"Our office has a longstanding commitment to addressing antisemitic discrimination, including harassment, in the nation’s schools through the enforcement of federal civil rights law," said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. "Through this Dear Colleague Letter, we seek to ensure that school communities throughout the United States know and fulfill their federal obligations to ensure that Jewish students can access their education without discrimination."
Today’s letter is one of several resources released by OCR to support schools in complying with their obligations under Title VI to address discrimination based on shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics. The letter highlights additional resources in this area, including a fact sheet, Protecting Students from Discrimination Based on Shared Ancestry or Ethnic Characteristics, released in January 2023. Additional resources are available on the Shared Ancestry or Ethnic Characteristics page of OCR’s website. Information about recently resolved complaints under Title VI, including complaints alleging antisemitism, is available here.
The Department will also take additional actions as part of this new campaign, including:
- OCR will continue to collect data on allegations of harassment or bullying based on religion, as it has since the 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection. This will include reported allegations of harassment or bullying based on 14 categories of religion, including Judaism.
- OCR will continue to offer technical assistance to school communities as well as community organizations regarding Title VI, including its application to Jewish students and its coverage of certain forms of antisemitic discrimination.
- Senior Department officials will conduct site visits to K-12 schools and institutions of higher education that are engaged in their own campaigns to address antisemitism, as well as those that have experienced upticks in antisemitism but have not yet adequately addressed such concerns.
- The Department will spotlight notable efforts by students, communities, educators, and administrators to prevent and address antisemitism, and will disseminate information about these efforts to offer concrete examples of ways schools and campuses can engage in efforts to prevent and address antisemitism.
- The Department will raise awareness about its resources that can be utilized to prevent and address antisemitism, such as funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and resources available through ED’s technical assistance centers.
- The Department’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships will spotlight strategies for school and campus communities to be more inclusive of Jewish and other religious identities, such as multifaith student groups or afterschool programs or school-based efforts aimed at fostering cross-community cooperation.
- The Department will promote technical assistance opportunities to help school and campus communities improve awareness of religious cultures and practices and accommodation of religious observances, including Jewish observances, such as observance of the Jewish Sabbath, major Jewish holidays, and dietary requirements.