Harvard, NYC schools added to DOE probe on antisemitism, Islamophobia


(NEW YORK) — Harvard University and the New York City Department of Education are now being investigated for complaints of antisemitism and Islamophobic discrimination on campus, joining seven other schools and districts following the growing protests and tensions over the Israel-Hamas war.

These investigations have been opened under Title VI, a law that bans discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in any institution or program that receives federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

Harvard University has been under scrutiny since several student groups issued a statement on the overseas conflict in Israel. It stated that Israeli policies, referencing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, are “entirely responsible for all unfolding violence” following the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas that killed more than 1,200 people.

The letter prompted fierce backlash. Some Jewish students at the university said they felt isolated and scared following the letter’s publication, claiming it supported the Hamas attack.

The students behind the letter denied supporting Hamas and say the backlash has led to a doxxing campaign against students believed to be connected to the letter. Some say they’ve been “flooded with racist hate speech and death threats.”

Since then, the campus has continued to be awash in protest and debate.

According to Harvard President Claudine Gay, the FBI and the Harvard University Police Department are investigating an incident at a “die-in” demonstration on campus calling for an end to “genocide in Gaza.”

In the Gaza Strip, more than 15,000 people have been killed by Israeli forces in its retaliatory offensive since Oct. 7, according to the Hamas Government Media Office.

Video footage of the incident on the Harvard Business School campus captured by NBC News shows an apparent counter protester recording and walking over the demonstrators, who are lying still on the ground. The man is seen being approached by demonstrators, who appear to block his cameras with keffiyehs, a scarf associated with Palestinian culture, until he leaves.

“Harvard has been and is a place of civil behavior and civil discourse,” Gay said in a statement following the incident. “We do not condone—and will not ignore—antisemitism, Islamophobia, acts of harassment or intimidation, or threats of violence.”

In response to the U.S. Department of Education investigation, a Harvard spokesperson told ABC News: “We support the work of the Office for Civil Rights to ensure students’ rights to access educational programs are safeguarded and will work with the office to address their questions.”

Harvard has created a task force to assist students being targeted by doxxing attempts, and administrators have also vowed to address issues of antisemitism, Islamophobia and other instances of hate on campus.

The New York City Department of Education, which oversees the largest school district in the nation, also has been under recent scrutiny after several protests broke out in city schools.

A spokesperson for NYC Public Schools told ABC News Thursday that the department will cooperate fully in the investigation.

“As Chancellor [David] Banks has made clear on numerous occasions, hate or bias of any kind has no place in our public schools,” the statement read. “We are taking concrete steps to ensure our schools continue to be safe, welcoming, and respectful places for all our students and staff.

The most recent incident occurred at a Queens high school, where students stormed through the school in protest of a Jewish teacher attending a pro-Israel rally, according to reporting from ABC affiliate WABC-TV. The teacher locked herself in an office during the outburst, WABC reported.

Banks, an alum of the school, went to speak to students and teachers about the incident before speaking at a press conference on Nov. 27 about the events.

“We are unequivocal. Violence, hate and disorder have no place in our schools; antisemitism, Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry or simply unacceptable,” said Banks at the presser. “And we are committed to maintaining a safe and supportive environment for every student and staff member.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told ABC News in an interview that there will likely be more investigations into schools and universities as incidents continue to pop up across the country.

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