Joni Ernst

11/30/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/30/2023 17:42

Ernst, Cassidy Fight Festering Antisemitism in K-12 Schools

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, are leading 30 colleagues in demanding the Department of Education uphold its obligations under Title VI to ensure Jewish and Israeli students in K-12 schools are not subjected to harassment, discrimination, and abuse.

In the letter, the lawmakers cite examples of antisemitism against young people in public schools, including 11-year-old Jewish girls being told they should be killed, and elementary school leaders spreading antisemitic rhetoric. Unfortunately, these incidents are not a new phenomenon, as antisemitic incidents have surged in K-12 schools long before Hamas' October 7th attack. In 2022, 494 incidents of antisemitism were reported in non-Jewish K-12 schools, a 49 percent increase compared to 2021.

The lawmakers wrote, "We are deeply concerned that the Department of Education (Department) is not ensuring American K-12 schools are fostering a safe learning environment for all students following the terrorist organization Hamas' violent attack on civilians, including Americans and Israeli citizens. We write to urgently inquire what your Department is doing to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and to ensure students are not subjected to discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.

"Parents should feel confident that their children's school will be safe and the focus will be on education. Instead, parents are beginning to fear that not only is school not safe for their students, but school officials are actively working to undermine the safety of their children. Parents cannot trust their students are safe if they fear school officials are key perpetrators in spreading anti-Semitic rhetoric.

"America's K-12 schools must be a safe learning environment for all students. School officials are supposed to be the adults in the school building. They should be setting an example for our students and ensuring a safe learning environment rather than undermining it…Some schools seem unwilling or unable to uphold their legal obligations under Title VI. Therefore, the Department should use its full resources to enforce the law."

Background:

Ernst is dedicated to protecting students of all ages from hate and discrimination. She led her colleagues in demanding the Department of Education uphold its legal obligations to ensure Jewish and Israeli students are safe on college campuses. Ernst also sponsored Senator Tim Scott's Stop Antisemitism on College Campuses Act to cut federal funding for any college or university that excuses or encourages antisemitism.

Following Ernst's advocacy, the Department of Education is finally investigating Harvard and other universities for failing to adequately respond to harassment and violence committed against Jewish students.

Read the letter here.