US: Title VI Bans Anti-Semitism

The U.S. Department of Education is moving to protect Jewish students against anti-Semitism under Title VI, after a six year ZOA campaign.

Chana Ya'ar, | updated: 17:16

High school students (illustrative)
High school students (illustrative)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The U.S. Department of Education will protect Jewish students against anti-Semitism under Title VI, after a six-year campaign.

Title VI, a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, requires schools that receive federal funding must ensure their programs and activities are free from discrimination based on “race, color or national origin.”  Violation of the law can cost a school its federal funding.

The ruling came after a Title VI complaint filed with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in 2004 by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) on behalf of Jewish students at the University of California, Irvine.

The complaint alleged that students had been subjected to years of anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination that the university knew about but failed to redress.

Although the complaint filed with OCR was dismissed, the issue of campus anti-Semitism was raised with members of Congress and later by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Russlyn Ali, the U.S. Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, wrote in a letter dated October 26, 2010, that Jewish students would join others who merit protection under the law.

“Anti-Semitic harassment can trigger responsibilities under Title VI,” he wrote. “While Title VI does not cover discrimination based solely on religion, groups [such as Jews] that face discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics may not be denied protection under Title VI on the ground that they also share a common faith.”

Remedial steps in dealing with anti-Semitic incidents could include “publicly labeling the incidents as anti-Semitic,” and educating teachers and students on the history and dangers of anti-Semitism and how to recognize it when it occurs.

In addition, the letter clarified that schools must “take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment and prevent its recurrence.”

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., director of the group’s Center for Law and Justice, issued a joint statement praising the decision.

“Now, when Jewish students are being harassed or intimidated, or facing a hostile anti-Semitic school environment, their schools will no longer be able to ignore the problem, or make token efforts to redress it. There will now be financial and other consequences under federal law if colleges and universities do not respond to end the anti-Semitic harassment and prevent it from recurring,” they said.

“Our children and grandchildren should never be confronted with anti-Semitic bigotry at their schools. But if they are, they now can rest assured that they have legal recourse. OCR is obligated to respond to the problem,” they noted, “and their schools are obligated to fix the hostile environment so that Jewish students can get their education in a safe environment that is conducive to learning.”