A coalition of Jewish groups has asked the U.S. secretary of education to review a policy that appears to preclude addressing discrimination complaints on the basis of religion.
The letter to Arne Duncan urges the department’s Office for Civil Rights to treat incidents of campus anti-Semitism as discrimination on the basis of race and national origin, not just religion, the Forward reported Wednesday.
“Jewish students … should have some recourse and some remedy if they’re subject to intimidation or harassment on the basis of their identity of being Jewish,” said Richard Foltin, director of national and legislative affairs at the American Jewish Committee. “We want to make sure that the resources of our national institutions, our federal government, are in place for those students when they’re needed.”
Thirteen national Jewish groups, cutting across ideological territory, signed the March 16 letter. They include the AJC, the Anti-Defamation League, the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center and the Orthodox Union.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act bars federal funding of institutions that discriminate on the basis of race, color or national origin. The Office for Civil Rights apparently has construed that statute to exclude incidents of religious discrimination, which is what the office appears to consider anti-Semitism. Consequently, Jewish students do not have recourse to the Civil Rights Act if they are the targets of discrimination on the basis of religion.
The department did not respond to a request for clarification of the policy by the Forward.