KJK’s Student and Athlete Defense practice group is dedicated to helping students through crisis. Since the October 7, 2023 attack on Israel by Hamas, college campuses have been a hotbed of protests and incidents that rise to violence and/or threats of violence. For example, a 29 year old Cornell University junior was charged for making online threats to kill and rape Jewish students and to shoot up the school. The Cornell incident just follows a string of other major threats to students. Students involved in any form of hate crime, antisemitic or otherwise, can be subjected to both criminal prosecution and student discipline on campus.
Biden’s New Initiatives to Combat Campus Hate
Jewish students have been particularly targeted following the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, causing the Biden administration to reveal a new action plan to combat antisemitism on college campuses. As a part of Biden’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, the Biden administration has previously directed the Department of Education to adjudicate complaints of antisemitism on campus under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In May of this year, the Department of Education launched an Antisemitism Awareness Campaign and published a related “Dear Colleague” letter addressing a disturbing increase antisemitic harassment and crime in educational institutions. The May “Dear Colleague” letter outlines how Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VI”) applies to protect all students “who are or are perceived to be Jewish, from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.” The letter goes on to identify the following as actionable under Title VI: antisemitic slurs, harassment based on a person’s look, dress, or speech (e.g., spoken language, skin color, religious attire) as well as harassment based on antisemitic stereotypes or denigration of ethnic characteristics.
Addressing Antisemitism and Islamophobia
In addition to the spike in antisemitic incidents on campus, students who are Islamic or even appear to be Islamic are also subjected to hate crimes. Governmental authorities have reported a significant increase in what is now coined Islamophobic acts. Many Muslim students across the country have voiced concerns of their safety. Many schools, such as Vanderbilt University, have been quite vocal that “hatred -whether through racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, antisemitism or any other form – has no place in our society…” All students must feel safe to access their education and extracurricular activities free from bias, prejudice, and hate. To stop these incidents, the Biden administration also announced the first ever US National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia. The federal government seeks to provide federal resources to schools while tracking hate-related threats of violence.
Following recommendations from this past Monday’s meeting, the Department of Education may respond with another “Dear Colleague” letter in support of Jewish students following the recommendations addressed at the meeting, while considering proactive training for K-12 educators on antisemitism. Later this week, Miguel Cardona and Neera Tanden, White House policy adviser, will hold a roundtable with Jewish students during a college campus visit. We also expect that in line with the announcement to protect Muslim students that all of these rolled out initiatives will provide broad protection against hate.
Legal Support for Campus Religious Discrimination
If you or your student has experienced any form of religious discrimination, harassment or violence on campus, the attorneys in KJK’s Student and Athlete Defense practice group are here to help. For more information, or to discuss further, please contact the authors.