OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY
Not for Reliance for Certain Purposes. This document expresses policy that is inconsistent in some respects with the Department’s regulations implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as amended in 2020, as well as Executive Orders 13988 (on combating discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation) and 14021 (on sex discrimination in educational environments).
- and aggressively to the racial harassment when they first became aware of
it, the school might have prevented the escalation of violence that occurred.13
- Over the course of a school year, school employees at a junior high school received reports of several incidents of anti-Semitic conduct at the school. Anti-Semitic graffiti, including swastikas, was scrawled on the stalls of the school bathroom. When custodians discovered the graffiti and reported it to school administrators, the administrators ordered the graffiti removed but took no further action. At the same school, a teacher caught two ninth-graders trying to force two seventh-graders to give them money. The ninth-graders told the seventh-graders, “You Jews have all of the money, give us some.” When school administrators investigated the incident, they determined that the seventh-graders were not actually Jewish. The school suspended the perpetrators for a week because of the serious nature of their misconduct. After that incident, younger Jewish students started avoiding the school library and computer lab because they were located in the corridor housing the lockers of the ninth-graders. At the same school, a group of eighth-grade students repeatedly called a Jewish student “Drew the dirty Jew.” The responsible eighth-graders were reprimanded for teasing the Jewish student.
- The school administrators failed to recognize that anti-Semitic harassment
can trigger responsibilities under Title VI. While Title VI does not cover
discrimination based solely on religion,14 groups
that face discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived shared ancestry
or ethnic characteristics may not be denied protection under Title VI on the
ground that they also share a common faith. These principles apply not just
to Jewish students, but also to students from any discrete religious group
that shares, or is perceived to share, ancestry or ethnic characteristics (e.g.,
Muslims or Sikhs). Thus, harassment against students who are members of any
religious group triggers a school’s Title VI responsibilities when the harassment
is based on the group’s actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics,
rather than solely on its members’ religious practices. A school also has
responsibilities under Title VI when its students are harassed based on their
actual or perceived citizenship or residency in a country whose residents share
a dominant religion or a distinct religious identity.15
- In this example, school administrators should have recognized that the harassment
was based on the students’ actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic identity
as Jews (rather than on the students’ religious practices). The school was not
relieved of its responsibilities under Title VI because the targets of one of
the incidents were not actually Jewish. The harassment was still based on the
perceived ancestry or ethnic characteristics of the targeted students. Furthermore,
the harassment negatively affected the ability and willingness of Jewish students
to participate fully in the school’s
13 More information
about the applicable legal standards and OCR’s approach to investigating
allegations of harassment on the basis of race, color, or national origin
is included in Racial Incidents and Harassment Against Students at
Educational Institutions: Investigative Guidance, 59 Fed. Reg. 11,448
(Mar. 10, 1994), available at http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/race394.html.
14 As noted in footnote seven, DOJ has the authority to remedy discrimination based solely on religion under Title IV.
15 More information about the applicable legal standards and OCR’s approach to investigating complaints of discrimination against members of religious groups is included in OCR’s Dear Colleague Letter: Title VI and Title IX Religious Discrimination in Schools and Colleges (Sept. 13, 2004), available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/religious-rights2004.html.