Education Ministry opens investigation into alleged incidents of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia

By | November 17, 2023

Julia Nikhinson/AP

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks with students during a visit to Towson University to discuss anti-Semitism on college campuses, November 2, 2023.


The Department of Education has launched investigations at seven schools, including Cornell University, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania, after receiving complaints about alleged incidents of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, an administration official told CNN.

The investigations concern five cases of anti-Semitism and two cases of Islamophobia, the official said.

These are the first investigations on this subject nice by the Ministry of Education since the Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7 attack on Israel.

Schools were informed of the investigations within the last 24 hours. They include a K-12 school, the Maize Unified School District in Kansas, and six colleges: Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, Cornell University in New York, Columbia University in New York, Wellesley College in Massachusetts, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science . and Art in New York and at the University of Pennsylvania.

A list of K-12 schools and colleges under investigation for possible discrimination based on common ancestry or ethnic characteristics will be posted on the Department of Education website and will be updated every week.

Following the investigations, the Ministry of Education will make recommendations to schools. Schools risk losing federal funding if they don’t comply, the administration official said.

The investigations were launched under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which states that universities and elementary and secondary schools have a responsibility to provide all students with an environment free from discrimination. Anyone can file a Title VI complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

“Hate has no place in our schools, period. When students are targeted because they are – or are perceived to be – Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Sikh or any other common ethnicity or ancestry, schools must act to ensure safe and inclusive educational environments where everyone is free to learn,” declared the Secretary of State. Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

College campuses have seen rising tensions due to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. A Cornell University student was federally indicted for a series of online posts threatening to kill and harm Jewish students, as well as the University of Pennsylvania recently alerted the FBI to a series of threatening anti-Semitic emails sent to staff at the Ivy League school.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education has issued guidelines to middle and primary and secondary schools, reminding them that they have a legal obligation to address incidents of discrimination – including against those who are Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab or Palestinian.

The department also recently updated its discrimination complaint form, clarifying that Title VI’s protection against discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin extends to students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh, or on the basis of other common ancestry or ethnic characteristics. Anyone can file a discrimination complaint.

Department officials organized listening sessions this week with K-12 school leaders to learn how they are keeping students safe in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict. A series of webinars is scheduled to launch in December to help school staff and community organizations develop strategies to prevent and respond to hate-based threats, intimidation and harassment.

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