U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) joined Representatives Kathy Manning (D-NC-06) and Chris Smith (R-NJ-06) on Tuesday in co-leading a bipartisan group of Congress members in signing a letter urging the Department of Education to take additional steps to counter antisemitism and protect Jewish students on college campuses.
The letter — which can be read in full here — also requests that the Department of Education brief members of Congress on its progress implementing the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism by September 30, 2023.
“As members of Congress who are committed to countering antisemitism, we are deeply concerned about the rise of antisemitic incidents at universities and college campuses,” the letter said. “The U.S Department of Education has a key role to play in the federal government’s efforts to counter antisemitism.”
The letter expressed support for the Department of Education’s Antisemitism Awareness Campaign and other commitments in the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, unveiled in May, and specified several strategies to combat antisemitism in schools.
“We strongly encourage the Department to continue taking the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism into consideration as it investigates individual incidents of anti-Jewish discrimination and enforces federal civil rights law,” it noted. “In addition, we reiterate our support for the Administration’s proposed action to issue regulations pursuant to Executive Order 13899 on Combating Anti-Semitism to provide the strongest level of protections for Jewish students.”
“The overall number of complaints received by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has risen from approximately 10,000 cases in 2019 to more than 19,000 cases last year,” the letter went on to say. “While we welcome the Department’s successful resolution of a recent case at the University of Vermont, we encourage the Department to continue to swiftly investigate other pending cases and to continue to enforce federal civil rights laws against antisemitism in all forms. We also encourage the Department to undertake concerted efforts to encourage the reporting of antisemitic incidents; despite the increase in complaints to OCR, anti-Jewish incidents remain woefully underreported.”
The letter asked the Department of Education for written responses to the following questions:
- How is the Department working to swiftly resolve a backlog of pending discrimination complaints, and specifically those involving antisemitism?
- What additional resources does the Department require to successfully resolve the pending complaints in a timely manner?
- How will the Department help schools, including those that have experienced an increase in antisemitism, improve their processes and procedures for reporting antisemitic incidents on college campuses?
- How does the Department plan to highlight best practices to prevent and address antisemitism on campus and ensure students, educators, and administrators are aware of available resources?
- What technical assistance will the Department provide to schools regarding Title VI, its application to Jewish students and its coverage of all forms of antisemitic discrimination?
Read the letter in its entirety here.