UPenn, Lafayette College among 7 schools under investigation by Department of Education

The investigations include five antisemitism cases and two Islamophobia cases, the official said.

Friday, November 17, 2023
UPenn, Lafayette College among 7 schools under investigation by Department of Education
UPenn and Lafayette College were among seven schools under investigation by the Dept. of Education for alleged antisemitism and Islamophobia.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Department of Education has launched investigations into seven schools after receiving complaints about alleged incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia, an administration official tells CNN.

The Department of Education has launched investigations into seven schools after receiving complaints about alleged incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia

The investigations include five antisemitism cases and two Islamophobia cases, the official said.

They are the first investigations of this kind by the Department of Education since the October 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel.

The schools were informed about the investigations earlier this week. They include one K-12 school, the Maize Unified School District in Kansas, and six colleges: Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, Cornell University in New York, Columbia University in New York, Wellesley College in Massachusetts, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York, and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks with students during a visit to Towson University to discuss antisemitism on college campuses, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, in Towson, Md.
(AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A list of K-12 schools and colleges under investigation for possible discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics will be posted on the Department of Education's website and will be updated weekly.

SEE ALSO: University of Pennsylvania alerted FBI to antisemitic threats on campus, school's president says

University of Pennsylvania alerted FBI to antisemitic threats on campus, school's president says

At the conclusion of the investigations, the Department of Education will make recommendations to the schools. The schools risk losing federal funding if they don't comply, the administration official said.

The investigations were launched under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which says universities and K-12 schools have a responsibility to provide all students with an environment free from discrimination. Anyone can file a Title VI complaint with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

"Hate has no place in our schools, period. When students are targeted because they are- or are perceived to be -Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, or any other ethnicity or shared ancestry, schools must act to ensure safe and inclusive educational environments where everyone is free to learn," Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

College campuses have seen a rise in tension over the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. A Cornell University student has been federally charged in connection with a series of online posts threatening to kill and harm Jewish students, and the University of Pennsylvania recently alerted the FBI to a series of threatening antisemitic emails sent to the Ivy League school's staff.

Earlier this month, the Department of Education issued guidance to colleges and K-12 schools, reminding them that they have a legal obligation to address incidents of discrimination - including against those who are Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab or Palestinian.

SEE ALSO: 'Vile' antisemitic messages projected on University of Pennsylvania campus

'Vile' antisemitic messages projected on University of Pennsylvania campus

The department also recently updated its discrimination complaint form, specifying that Title VI's protection from discrimination based on race, color or national origin extends to students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Sikh, or based on other shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. Anyone can file a discrimination complaint.

Department officials have been holding listening sessions this week with K-12 school leaders to hear how they are keeping students safe in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict. A webinar series is expected to launch in December to help school personnel and community-based organizations develop strategies to prevent and respond to hate-based threats, bullying and harassment.

Eyal Yakoby, a senior at Penn and a member of Penn Hillel, told Action News, "There is a serious, systemic issue on Penn's campus."

Yakoby said there have been several recents acts of hate at Penn. He said he believes the administration needs to do more.

"When you have people on campus who are causing an unsafe environment, inciting hate, inciting violence, it's not just words, it's actions now occurring daily on campus, it's not ok."

University of Pennsylvania's statement on investigation:

"We have received the letter from the Department of Education and look forward to cooperating fully with the Department. The University is taking clear and comprehensive action to prevent, address, and respond to antisemitism, with an action plan anchored in the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. President Magill has made clear antisemitism is vile and pernicious and has no place at Penn; the University will continue to vigilantly combat antisemitism and all forms of hate."

Lafayette College's statement on the investigation:

"On Thursday morning, Nov. 16, the College received notification from the OCR of this complaint. We do not know why the OCR decided to include the College in this investigation. To the contrary, as recently as last week, students of differing views shared a peaceful gathering on campus to honor all those who have died in the recent violence in the Middle East. This event was typical of how our campus community has acted with care and kindness during this time. The College maintains a firm stance against antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hate speech of any kind. The College is cooperating and will continue to cooperate fully with the DOE in their investigation."

The-CNN-Wire & 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.