Wicker, Hyde-Smith Urge Biden Admin. To Address Rising Rates of Antisemitism

Miss. Senators, 30 Colleagues Seek Enforcement of Civil Rights Title VI to Ensure School Safety for All Students

December 1, 2023

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., are among 32 Republican senators urging the Biden administration to address antisemitism toward Jewish children in K-12 schools amid rising rates in the aftermath of Hamas’ deadly attacks against Israel.

In a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, the senators asked that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act be enforced to ensure the protection of Jewish students from growing antisemitic harassment.  The lawmakers also requested a briefing on the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights compliance reviews and investigations based on harassment or violence complaints in K-12 schools.

“We are deeply concerned that the Department of Education 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,” the senators wrote. 

“Parents should feel confident that their children’s school will be safe and the focus will be on education,” the senators continued. “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.”

“Some schools seem unwilling or unable to uphold their legal obligations under Title VI,” the senators wrote. “Therefore, the Department should use its full resources to enforce the law.”

Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Department of Education has a responsibility to ensure schools that receive federal funds maintain a safe learning environment for students.  While the administration has since announced new efforts to address antisemitism in schools, these actions do nothing to ensure schools are responsibly handling these events and working to prevent them in the first place.

The letter cites several antisemitic incidences at K-12 schools following the Hamas attack on Israel, including:

  • Shortly after the October 7 attacks, an 11-year-old in Manhattan Beach, Calif., told four Jewish girls at his school that “all Israelis and Jews should be killed.”
  • On October 9, the Revere, Mass., Public Schools superintendent sent an email to school staff promoting resources that claimed, “Israeli terrorism has been significantly worse than that of the Palestinians.”
  • On October 17, a New York City middle school teacher and United Federation of Teachers’ (UFT) school representative sent an email to teachers’ union members deriding the UFT’s official statement denouncing the October 7 attack and calling on the unions’ retirement system to “divest from weapons and other companies that are complicit in violations of Palestinians’ civil and land rights.”
  • On October 18, students in San Francisco marched through the hallways of their high school chanting anti-Semitic slogans.

“Examples are continuing to surface of K-12 teachers using materials that perpetuate antisemitism,” the senators noted. “There is a trend of school districts establishing courses under the guise of ‘ethnic studies’ that are aimed to force a political agenda on students and that uniquely target Jews, alleging that all Jews are white or ‘white adjacent’ and illegally occupy Israel. The Zinn Education Project, whose history curriculum is used by 155,000 teachers, declared that the October 7th attack was ‘the direct result of decades of Israeli occupation.’”

The letter was led by U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D., R-La., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. In addition to Wicker and Hyde-Smith, it was also signed by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Mike Braun, R-Ind., Ted Budd, R-N.C., Katie Britt, R-Ala., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Susan Collins, R-Maine, John Cornyn, R-Texas, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., James Lankford, R-Okla., Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Roger Marshall, M.D., R-Kan., Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., Pete Ricketts, R-Neb., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Rick Scott, R-Fla., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, John Thune, R-S.D., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.

Read the full letter here.