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The U.S. Department of Education Introduces New Resources to Address Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Other Discriminatory Biases
In May 2023, President Biden unveiled the groundbreaking U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. This comprehensive effort from the entire U.S. government represents the most ambitious endeavor to combat antisemitism in American history. Additionally, the White House announced this month that the Biden-Harris Administration will develop the first-ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia. In line with these commitments, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) is introducing new resources to empower schools and college campuses in safeguarding students from discrimination and harassment based on their race, color, or national origin. This includes students who are Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, Arab, or Palestinian, or who are perceived to be.
“Hate has no place in our school classrooms or on our college campuses. Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of hate are completely contrary to our American values,” stated U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The Biden-Harris Administration and the Department are tirelessly working to protect the civil rights of students from all backgrounds, including Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab, Palestinian, and those with any shared ancestry. Every student has the right to learn in a safe and inclusive educational environment.”
New Resources to Promote Student Safety
- The Department is providing resources that can strengthen school safety initiatives and create more inclusive and positive environments for all students, educators, and school staff. This includes funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which allocated $1 billion to districts for developing and enhancing safety initiatives.
- The Department-funded technical assistance centers, such as the 4 regional equity assistance centers and the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE), are offering guidance to support schools. The equity assistance centers provide technical support and training to promote equitable education opportunities related to race, sex, national origin, and religion. NCSSLE is launching two specialized resource collections to assist educators, students, parents, and community members in addressing antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of discrimination. One collection is designed for P-12 schools, and the other is for higher education institutions.
- Starting December 6th, the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education will initiate a webinar series focusing on evidence-informed strategies for hate-based threat prevention, bullying, and harassment. The webinars will cover various topics such as “Creating a Welcoming Environment” in December, “Full Student Participation” in December, “Conflict Mediation” in January, and “Ongoing Support” in February.
- Department senior leaders will hold listening sessions with P-12 school and postsecondary institution leaders to gather valuable insights on how schools are ensuring student safety in the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Listening sessions with Jewish students, educators, and staff members are ongoing, with sessions planned for Muslim, Arab, Palestinian, Sikh, and other students impacted by Islamophobia in the coming weeks.
- The Department will highlight noteworthy efforts by students, communities, educators, and administrators in combating antisemitism as part of its Antisemitism Awareness Campaign. It will share information about these initiatives to provide tangible examples of how schools and campuses can implement similar efforts.
- The Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP) will contribute strategies for fostering inclusivity of Jewish, Muslim, and other religious identities. This includes promoting multifaith student groups, afterschool programs, and school-based initiatives that encourage cross-community cooperation.
Safeguarding students from antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of discrimination and bias is crucial to our broader fight against all types of hate, bigotry, and bias. It is also integral to our vision of a thriving, inclusive, and diverse democracy.
The Department has taken significant steps to actualize this vision and ensure student safety. One of these steps is the launch of the Antisemitism Awareness Campaign, which aims to raise awareness among educators, students, parents, and communities about the alarming rise of antisemitism and equip them with tools to address it. The Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships leads the implementation of the campaign, working closely with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and various other offices within the Department.
Additional key actions to combat antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of discrimination and bias include:
Protections under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act
- In the month of November, OCR issued a Dear Colleague letter reminding PreK-12 schools and higher education institutions of their legal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI). The letter emphasizes the need to provide a discrimination-free school environment to all students, including those who are Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab, or Palestinian.
- OCR recently updated its complaint form to specify that Title VI’s protection against discrimination based on race, color, or national origin extends to students who are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, or who belong to other shared ancestry or ethnic groups. This update aims to enhance understanding of the process for filing a Title VI complaint. Any individual who believes that a school has discriminated against a student based on race, color, or national origin can file a discrimination complaint with OCR. The complaint can be filed by the affected individual or by a concerned community member, such as a family member, faculty, staff, or anyone else aware of a potential case of discrimination.
- OCR is available to provide technical assistance and training on Title VI to school communities and community organizations. This assistance includes the application of Title VI to Jewish and Muslim students, as well as coverage of forms of antisemitic and Islamophobic discrimination. Requests for training can be submitted to OCR@ed.gov.
- OCR will continue to collect data on allegations of harassment or bullying based on religion. This data collection has been ongoing since the 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). Schools will be required to report allegations of harassment or bullying based on a student’s perceived religion, including Judaism and Islam, for the 2021-22 CRDC. Data collection from public schools serving students in preschool through grade 12 for the 2021-22 school year will commence in December 2023.
Engagement with Impacted Communities
- On October 30, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, Secretary Miguel Cardona, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, and other senior officials from the Biden-Harris Administration met with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to discuss the concerning rise of antisemitism on campuses. The meeting centered around the actions being taken by the Biden-Harris Administration to address the notable increase in instances of antisemitism in schools and college campuses since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.
- As part of the Antisemitism Awareness Campaign, Secretary Cardona, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, and other senior administration officials conducted site visits to PreK-12 schools and higher education institutions. The purpose of these visits was to hold listening sessions with Jewish students and share examples of commendable efforts by students, communities, educators, and administrators in preventing and addressing antisemitism and promoting inclusivity.
- The Department is conducting meetings and listening sessions with students, faculty, staff, and community leaders from Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and other impacted groups