U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Announces Resolution of Anti-Semitic Harassment Investigation of Kyrene School District #28

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The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today announced the resolution of a complaint of anti-Semitic harassment filed against Kyrene School District #28 in Arizona.

OCR determined that the district violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulations by failing to respond appropriately to notice of on-going anti-Semitic harassment of a student by other students.

OCR found that the student was subjected to months of harassment, both in school and on social media, by numerous classmates. The harassment included calling her anti-Semitic slurs and disparaging and joking about her Jewish heritage, over a period of five months. The harassment the student experienced and the district’s failure to provide the student with a safe school environment caused her to suffer significant and enduring academic and emotional harm. OCR also found that the harassment the district failed to address persisted school wide.

Although the district confirmed that anti-Semitic harassment occurred on campus and in classrooms, including by finding that nine students had engaged in anti-Semitic harassment for several months, the district did not assess whether the verified, widespread harassment negatively impacted other students. The district did not take any school wide measures to address the anti-Semitic harassment until several months after confirming its existence, which allowed a potential hostile environment to persist in the school.

As a result of these failures, OCR determined that the district permitted the student to be subjected to a hostile environment based on her Jewish ancestry that was sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it interfered with the student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s program.

The resolution agreement commits the district to take steps to ensure nondiscrimination based on race, color, or national origin (including based on shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics) in all of its education programs and activities.

“As we see a distressing rise in reports of anti-Semitism on campuses across the country, I commend Kyrene School District #28 for committing today to take essential steps to ensure that no other students will have to suffer anti-Semitic harassment or other harassment based on their shared ancestry,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon.

The district’s commitments in the voluntary resolution agreement include:

  • Addressing the student’s academic and counseling needs resulting from the harassment.
  • Reviewing and revising its policies and procedures to address Title VI’s prohibition of harassment based on race, color, or national origin, including shared ancestry, including by clarifying in its policies and procedures that the prohibition against harassment includes harassment based on Jewish ancestry.
  • Providing training to district staff regarding the district’s obligation to respond to complaints of harassment based on race, color, or national origin.
  • Providing age-appropriate information programs for students to address harassment based on race, color, or national origin. And,
  • Conducting a climate survey to assess the prevalence of harassment in the student’s former school and provide suggestions for effective ways to address harassment.
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