The Biden administration says colleges must combat a “troubling rise” in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is warning U.S. schools and colleges that they must take immediate action to stop anti-Semitism and Islamophobia on their campuses, citing a “troubling rise” in threats and harassment.
In a letter on Tuesday, the Education Ministry said there was a “renewed urgency” to fight discrimination against students during the war between Israel and Hamas. The letter reminded schools of their legal duty to protect students and intervene to stop harassment that disrupts their education.
Written by Catherine E. Lamon, the department’s assistant secretary of state for civil rights, said that “hate-based discrimination, including discrimination based on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia among other grounds, has no place in our nation’s schools.”
Universities have faced increasing criticism over their response to the war and its repercussions in American schools. Jewish and Muslim students at many universities say not much has been done To keep them safe. Protests have at times turned violent including a recent demonstration at Tulane University, while threats of violence have turned campuses upside down including Cornell University.
The Department of Education provided few details about how colleges would respond, and did little to answer questions about where to draw the line between political speech and harassment. Instead, it established the public duties of schools under the Civil Rights Act.
It says schools must intervene to stop behavior that is “objectively abusive and so severe or pervasive that it limits or denies a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from the recipient’s educational program or activity.” She urged schools to “be vigilant in protecting the rights of their students.”
The Department of Education investigates reports of civil rights violations at schools and universities. Organizations can face penalties of up to a loss of federal funds.
In a meeting with a group of Jewish students from Baltimore-area colleges last week, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said he was “appalled and horrified” by incidents of anti-Semitism on American campuses. He pledged to support universities in their work to protect students from all backgrounds.
In other actions, federal law enforcement officials collaborated with campus police to assess threats and improve security. Last week, the Department of Education added language to the federal complaint form clarifying that some forms of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are prohibited under federal civil rights law.
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This article originally appeared on apnews.com