FACT SHEET: The U.S. Department of Education Announces New Tools to Tackle Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Related Forms of Discrimination and Bias

FACT SHEET: The U.S. Department of Education Announces New Tools to Tackle Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Related Forms of Discrimination and Bias

Latest resources build on the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism
November 14, 2023

In May 2023, President Biden announced the historic U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. This whole-of-government approach represents the most comprehensive and ambitious U.S. government effort to counter antisemitism in American history. The White House also announced this month that the Biden-Harris Administration will develop the first-ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia. Building upon these commitments, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) is announcing new resources aimed at ensuring schools and college campuses have the tools they need to protect students from discrimination and harassment because of their race, color, or national origin, including students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, Arab, or Palestinian.

"Hate has no place in our school classrooms or on our college campuses. Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of hate are antithetical to who we are as Americans," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. "The Biden-Harris Administration and this Department are working tirelessly to uphold the civil rights of students of all backgrounds, including students who are, or who are perceived to be, Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab, or Palestinian, or of any other shared ancestry. All students have the right to learn in safe and inclusive educational environments."

New Resources to Keep Students Safe in the Classroom and on Campuses

  • The Department is sharing resources for students, educators, and communities that can be used to strengthen school safety efforts, such as funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which provided $1 billion to districts to design and enhance initiatives to promote safer, more inclusive, and positive school environments for all students, educators, and school staff.
  • In addition, guidance is being provided by Department-funded technical assistance centers such as its 4 regional equity assistance centers and the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE). Equity Assistance Centers provide technical assistance and training, upon request, in the areas of race, sex, national origin, and religion to public school districts and other responsible governmental agencies to promote equitable education opportunities. NCSSLE is releasing two collections of specialized resources designed to help educators, students, parents, and community members keep students safe from antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of discrimination. One collection is designed for P-12 schools and the other for institutions of higher education.   
  • On December 6th, the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education will launch a webinar series for P-12 school personnel and community-based organizations to develop, strengthen, and share evidence-informed strategies that help schools prevent and respond to hate-based threats, bullying, and harassment. The webinar series kicks off with a session on "Creating a Welcoming Environment" on Dec. 6, followed by webinars on "Full Student Participation" on Dec. 13, "Conflict Mediation" on Jan. 17, and "Ongoing Support" in February.
  • This week, senior leaders of the Department will also host listening sessions with P-12 school leaders and postsecondary institution leaders to glean key insights from the field about how some schools are keeping students safe in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Listening sessions with Jewish students, educators, and staff are ongoing, and listening sessions with Muslim, Arab, Palestinian, Sikh and other students impacted by Islamophobia are planned in the next few weeks.
  • The Department will also, as part of its ongoing Antisemitism Awareness Campaign, spotlight notable efforts by students, communities, educators, and administrators to prevent and address antisemitism, and will disseminate information about these efforts to offer concrete examples of ways schools and campuses can engage in similar efforts.
  • Additionally, the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP) will share effective strategies for school and campus communities to be more inclusive of Jewish, Muslim, and other religious identities, such as multifaith student groups, afterschool programs, or school-based efforts aimed at fostering cross-community cooperation.

Protecting students from antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of discrimination and bias is essential to our broader fight against all forms of hate, bigotry, and bias—and to our broader vision of a thriving, inclusive, and diverse democracy.

The Department has taken key steps to help realize this vision and keep students safe, including the launch of its Antisemitism Awareness Campaign, aimed at raising awareness among educators, students, parents, and communities about the alarming rise of antisemitism and giving them tools to address it. Implementation of the campaign is led by CFBNP, with close coordination with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), alongside the Offices of the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and Under Secretary, OESE, the Office for Postsecondary Education, the Office of Planning Evaluation and Policy Development, and others.

Additional key steps to tackle antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of discrimination and bias include:

Protections under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act

  • On November 7, OCR released a Dear Colleague letter reminding PreK-12 schools and institutions of higher education of their legal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) to provide all students, including students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab, or Palestinian, a school environment free from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.
  • OCR also recently released an updated complaint form specifying that Title VI's protection from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin extends to students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh, or based on other shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. This update will help individuals understand how to file a Title VI complaint. Anyone who believes that a school has discriminated against a student based on race, color, or national origin can file a complaint of discrimination with OCR. The person who files the complaint does not need to have been the target of the alleged violation, but could be a family member, or faculty, staff, or any other concerned community member who is aware of possible discrimination.
  • OCR is available to provide technical assistance through trainings to school communities as well as community organizations regarding Title VI, including its application to Jewish and Muslim students and its coverage of certain forms of antisemitic and Islamophobic discrimination. OCR welcome requests for training which can be submitted to OCR@ed.gov
  • OCR will continue to collect data on allegations of harassment or bullying based on religion, as it has since the 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). For the 2021-22 CRDC, schools will be required to report allegations of harassment or bullying based on 14 categories of a student's perceived religion, including Judaism and Islam. OCR will begin collecting data from public schools serving students in preschool through grade 12 for the 2021-22 school year in December 2023.

Direct Engagement with American Jewish, Arab, Muslim, and Other Impacted Communities

  • On October 30, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, Secretary Miguel Cardona, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, and other senior Biden-Harris Administration officials met with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to discuss the alarming rise of antisemitism on campuses. During the meeting, they discussed actions the Biden-Harris Administration is taking to counter the alarming uptick in instances of Antisemitism at schools and college campuses. Administration officials heard from Jewish leaders about the extremely disturbing pattern of Antisemitic threats of violence in schools and college campuses since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.
  • As part of the Department's Antisemitism Awareness Campaign, this fall Secretary Cardona, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten and other senior administration officials conducted site visits to PreK-12 schools and institutions of higher education in order to hold listening sessions with Jewish students and to share notable examples of actions that students, communities, educators, and administrators are taking to prevent and address antisemitism and promote inclusion of all students.
  • The Department is conducting meetings and listening sessions with students, faculty, staff, and community leaders from Muslim as well as Arab, Sikh, and other impacted groups to gain more insights about how to support them in ensuring that students of all backgrounds are free to learn.
  • Earlier this year, CFBNP hosted a conference entitled, "Free to Learn: Inclusion, Rights, and Accommodations for Students of All Faiths and None," in person and livestreamed, for educators, administrators, and community leaders. The conference featured multiple tracks, including sessions on civil rights protections at educational institutions and Jewish and Muslim students' experiences of discrimination. Resources related to the Department-wide Free to Learn initiative can be found here. More information from the CFBNP can be found on its landing pages on countering antisemitism and countering Islamophobia.
  • The Department will continue to promote technical assistance opportunities to help school and campus communities improve awareness of religious cultures and practices and accommodation of religious observances.