Education Department Releases New Guidelines to Combat Antisemitism

By  - 
Photo of educational material

As antiwar protests continue and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigates campus antisemitism and anti-Muslim harassment incidents, the department is offering new guidance on how colleges and universities can comply with federal civil rights law.

Since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the department has opened more than 100 investigations into Title VI complaints alleging discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including antisemitism. Colleges and universities are also navigating an increase in campus protests against the war in Gaza. 

The department details in a Dear Colleague Letter, dated Tuesday and shared with every school district and college in the country, what actions are considered violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race or national origin. 

The new civil rights complaint form specifies Title VI’s protection from discrimination, including harassment based on race, color, or national origin, and discrimination against students based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including those who are perceived to be Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Hindu, or Sikh. 

The letter also lays out nine examples of instances that may be a cause for concern to help schools carry out Title VI’s requirements. These examples are purely hypothetical and provide perspective on what actions the department may take so institutions and school districts can best respond. Further guidance is provided on where to draw the line between protected speech and that which qualifies as harassment. 

The Biden-Harris Administration announced a variety of additional actions. The Department of Homeland Security will collaborate with partners to create a guide of campus safety resources, offering assistance to campuses through an online portal. In addition, the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism at the Department of State will convene technology firms to identify best practices to address antisemitic content online.