AJC Praises DOE Clarification of Civil Rights Protections for Jewish Students

October 26, 2010 – Washington – AJC praised the U.S. Department of Education for clarifying today, as part of a guidance on bullying, that Jewish students who are harassed at schools enjoy the protections of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

“The DOE has reaffirmed that our nation will not tolerate bullying and discriminatory harassment in our schools and colleges on any basis,” said Richard Foltin, AJC’s Director of National and Legislative Affairs. 

While Title VI does not cover religious discrimination, “the DOE Office for Civil Rights has recognized that in certain contexts anti-Semitic behavior or intimidation is clearly based on a perception of ethnicity or national origin and is therefore covered by Title VI,” said Foltin.

In March, AJC spearheaded a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan from thirteen Jewish organizations calling for the Department to clarify the Title VI protections. The letter came in the wake of inconsistent pronouncements over the years by the Office for Civil Rights as to whether the protections of Title VI – which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in federally-funded programs – extend to Jewish students when facts and circumstances demonstrate that anti-Semitic intimidation or harassment is directed at a Jewish student based on a perception of ethnic, as opposed to religious, identity.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali met with representatives of the signatory groups to discuss these concerns, an outreach that led directly to the DOE statement issued today.

“We thank Assistant Secretary Ali for the DOE ensuring that all students are protected from discriminatory harassment to the full extent of the law,” said Foltin. "We look forward to further elaboration on the principles enunciated today."
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