NYC schools under investigation for alleged Islamophobia and antisemitism

Dive Brief:

  • The New York City Department of Education is now under investigation by the federal government for allegedly violating Title VI, the civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.

  • New York City, as the largest school district in the country, is the third district to be investigated by the U.S. Department of Education in response to increased reports of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of discrimination following the Israel-Hamas war.

  • In addition to this investigation, the New York DOE already has 18 pending investigations opened by the Office for Civil Rights under Title VI, covering issues such as discipline, racial harassment, and admissions.

Dive Insight:

The U.S. Department of Education has confirmed its plan to continue opening investigations into school districts and colleges to enforce Title VI and protect Jewish, Muslim, Arab, and Sikh students, among others, from unsafe and exclusionary educational environments.

New York City’s investigation follows similar investigations opened in Kansas’ Maize Unified School District and Florida’s Hillsborough County Public Schools earlier this month.

It is important to note that starting an investigation does not necessarily mean a violation of Title VI has occurred.

New York City Public Schools, with its 1.1 million students and over 1,800 schools, is not only the largest school district in the country but also known as one of the most segregated.

According to a segregation index developed by researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education and the University of Southern California, New York City Public Schools ranks in the top 10 for racially segregated schools in terms of white-Black, white-Hispanic, and white-Asian segregation, based on data from 1991 to 2020.

New York City Public Schools has stated that it received notice of the investigation and intends to fully cooperate. The district has zero tolerance for hate or bias and is committed to providing a safe educational environment. Chancellor David Banks described a recent incident at Hillcrest High School as “completely unacceptable” and reflected on the broader issue of what is happening in schools nationwide.

In November, the U.S. Department of Education announced an increase in transparency regarding its investigations for public awareness. While pending investigations are not detailed, findings and recommendations for school districts found in violation of civil rights laws are made public once the case is resolved.

Non-compliance with the findings and resolution agreement of the Office for Civil Rights puts schools at risk of losing federal funding.

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona stated that the goal is not to punish students by withdrawing funding, but the removal of federal dollars could occur if safe learning environments are not prioritized.

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