The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has received more than 60 complaints about incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia at colleges and K-12 schools nationwide in the aftermath of Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel. The Office of Civil Rights is now investigating whether these incidents violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects people from discrimination based on race, color, and national origin while taking part in programs that receive federal funds.
While working through its new caseload, the Office of Civil Rights reached a settlement from a June 2023 complaint about repeated antisemitic harassment of a Jewish student at Red Clay Consolidated School District in Wilmington, Delaware.
On one occasion, the complainant was hit by a paper covered in racist language, the phrase “Blood of the Jews,” multiple swastikas, and bloody imagery. Just 10 minutes later, three students directed a “Heil Hitler” salute at the complainant.
Swastikas were later found on two desks the complainant used. In another incident, a classmate told the complainant to “shut the [expletive] up” after she asked students to stop discussing Kanye West during class. After class ended, two classmates informed the complainant, “I support Kanye West, Hitler was right.” The rapper, whose legal name is Ye, made headlines in late 2022 for his antisemitic tirades. After tweeting that he would “go death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” Ye lost business deals and was suspended from X, formerly known as Twitter, for inciting violence.
The Department of Education determined that the district’s poor documentation of incidents and inconsistent implementation of consequences led to the continuation of a hostile environment for the targeted student. In the settlement, the Office of Civil Rights listed extensive requirements for the district to redress its shortcomings. In addition to auditing past incidents, publicizing an anti-harassment statement, and teaching students about discrimination, the district was asked to train staff, revise its documentation process, and reimburse the student’s family for any “counseling, academic, or therapeutic services they obtained” resultant to the harassment.
Rabbi Moshe Hauer, the executive vice president of Orthodox Union, told the Washington Examiner that the settlement at Red Clay District “serves as a cautionary tale for others.”
Hauer explained that antisemitic incidents on school campuses “shatter the sense of security of the Jewish students” and demonstrate to non-Jewish students that “normalizing hate and expressions of hatred and hostility” is acceptable on campus.
For Hauer, the school’s response to these events can act as a course correction. Administrators who “jump out in front of [the topic]” by involving the police, the Anti-Defamation League, the superintendent, and parents can ensure that targeted students feel safe and that the entire student body understands that hate will not be tolerated in the learning environment.
Such a forthright response was missing at Red Clay District. Hauer was grateful to see that when incidents in the district were brought “up the rungs of the ladder” to the Department of Education, “the Office of Civil Rights followed through … and placed expectations on Red Clay.”
In the aftermath of Oct. 7, Hauer said that Orthodox Union and other Jewish institutions have shifted their energy from conducting their normal activities to “fighting so that [Jewish] people should be able to be themselves.” He said that onlookers often ask him what differentiates the hate-filled atmosphere of today from that of 1933 Germany. In Germany, he said, the people spreading antisemitism “were empowered by the government … or encouraged by the government [so] there was no government to talk to, and no authority that said ‘This is wrong.’” In the U.S., federal government institutions are actively working to protect the Jewish population and to redress hate when it comes to light.
The process of resolving students’ complaints at the federal level will take time. Some families are not willing to wait. In California’s Oakland Unified School District, more than two dozen Jewish families have pulled their children from district schools. But Hauer insists that the raging antisemitism will have an impact on far more than the Jewish population.
“Hate generates hate. It normalizes hate,” Hauer explained. “Antisemitism is the ultimate conspiracy theory. It’s not an expression of some kind of true investigation of cause and effect. It’s a world of imagining the enemy and constructing narratives … it’s a very bad place for society to go, because then the whole notion of a trust that exists … just dissipates. It’s a poison that spreads.”
Beth Bailey (@BWBailey85) is a freelance contributor to Fox News Digital and the co-host of The Afghanistan Project, which takes a deep dive into the tragedy wrought in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.