US Department of Education
US Department of Education iStock

In response to a detailed complaint filed last January by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is investigating whether the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in Virginia inadequately responded to incidents of antisemitic harassment.

FCPS is one of the largest school districts in the US.

In a November 3, 2022 letter, OCR notified ZOA that it will be investigating ZOA’s allegations that FCPS discriminated against Jewish students by responding ineffectively to incidents of harassment that include but are not limited to:

  • Students giving “Heil Hitler” and Nazi salutes;
  • School officials leaving intact a wall tile display in a school hallway that included swastikas and other Nazi imagery;
  • Students making “jokes” (e.g., “What’s the difference between putting a pizza in the oven and putting a Jew in the oven? The pizza doesn’t scream.”) and other harassing statements regarding Jews and money (e.g., “Jew them down”);
  • Requiring classroom assignments that trivialized the Holocaust; and
  • Students mocking a Hebrew song during chorus class and in the hallways.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein announced, “We are pleased that OCR is investigating FCPS for failing to respond effectively to longstanding problems of antisemitism in the district. We thank members of the Jewish community who came to us, shared the painful antisemitic experiences that their children endured, and described how the experiences were rendered even more painful for students and their families when the antisemitism was met with indifference, insensitivity, and inaction by FCPS officials.”

Director of the ZOA Center for Law and Justice Susan B. Tuchman, Esq. added, “We look forward to OCR thoroughly investigating ZOA’s allegations. ZOA and the Fairfax Jewish community are counting on OCR to ensure that FCPS finally lives up to its legal obligations under Title VI and provides Jewish students with a learning environment that is safe, respectful, and welcoming. That is what every student deserves and has a right to under the law.”

Co-Founder of the ZOA Center for Law and Justice and ZOA Chairman of the Board, David Schoen, commented, “As a graduate of FCPS myself, I’m particularly disturbed by the outrageous examples of indisputably antisemitic incidents. In these fraught times, there seems to be a direct connection between antisemitic rhetoric and violence perpetrated by those who act on that message of hate. I am hopeful that this positive report that OCR is investigating will have an impact.”