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U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Announces List of Open Title VI Shared Ancestry Investigations of Institutions of Higher Education and K-12 Schools

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As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s continued efforts to take aggressive action to address the alarming nationwide rise in reports of antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, and other forms of discrimination and harassment on college campuses and in K-12 schools since the October 7 Israel-Hamas conflict, today the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a list of the higher education and K-12 institutions under investigation for alleged shared ancestry violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), which prohibits race, color, or national origin discrimination, including harassment based on a person’s shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. The list of K-12 schools and institutions of higher education that are under investigation for possible discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics will be updated weekly on the OCR website.

“Hate has no place in our schools, period. When students are targeted because they are—or are perceived to be—Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, or any other ethnicity or shared ancestry, schools must act to ensure safe and inclusive educational environments where everyone is free to learn,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “These investigations underscore how seriously the Biden-Harris Administration, including the U.S. Department of Education, takes our responsibility to protect students from hatred and discrimination.” 

“We at the Department of Education, like the nation, see the fear students and school communities experience as hate proliferates in schools,” said Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “As we continue our active enforcement, the Office for Civil Rights is increasing transparency into our investigations for public awareness.  As always, I emphasize that the Office for Civil Rights reaches conclusions at the end of investigations and that a school’s appearance on this list does not reflect a conclusion that the law has been violated.”

Releasing this list advances President Biden’s promise to protect students, engage school and university leaders, and foster safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environments. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to putting an end to discrimination including on schools and college campuses.

As part of that work, last week the Education Department released a Dear Colleague Letter reminding schools of their legal obligations under Title VI and its implementing regulations (Title VI) to provide all students a school environment free from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, including shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. The letter provides greater clarity about the requirements of the law on discrimination based on shared ancestry, as requested by institutions and students. All colleges, and universities and K-12 schools receiving federal funds must comply with Title VI. Schools that violate the law and refuse to address the problems identified by OCR can ultimately lose federal funding or be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for further action. Additional resources in this area include a fact sheet, Protecting Students from Discrimination Based on Shared Ancestry or Ethnic Characteristics, released in January 2023, and a Dear Colleague Letter issued in May 2023 as part of the Department’s launch of an Antisemitism Awareness Campaign. For more information about the Department of Education’s work on shared ancestry discrimination, please see the OCR website on Race, Color, or National Origin Discrimination.

The list below reflects institutions that are currently under investigation for possible discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics in Fiscal Year 2024 as of November 16, 2023.
Five of the complaints allege antisemitic harassment and two allege anti-Muslim harassment. For a full list of open investigations involving shared ancestry, please see the OCR website on Open Title VI Shared Ancestry Investigations.

List of Open Title VI Shared Ancestry Investigations, Fiscal Year 2024 (beginning 10/1/2023)



Date Investigation Opened

Maize Unified School District

Maize, Kansas

November 16, 2023

Lafayette College

Easton, PA

November 16, 2023

Cornell University

Ithaca, NY

November 16, 2023

Columbia University

New York, NY

November 16, 2023

Wellesley College

Wellesley, MA

November 16, 2023

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

November 15, 2023

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

New York, NY

November 15, 2023

Title VI’s protection from race, color, or national origin discrimination extends to students who experience discrimination, including harassment, based on their actual or perceived: (i) shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics; or (ii) citizenship or residency in a country with a dominant religion or distinct religious identity. Schools that receive federal financial assistance have a responsibility to address discrimination when the discrimination involves racial, ethnic, or ancestral slurs or stereotypes; or is based on a student’s skin color, physical features, or style of dress that reflects both ethnic and religious traditions, to name a few characteristics. Likewise, schools have a responsibility to address discrimination against students based on the region of the world they come from or are perceived to come from.

OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001. OCR’s investigations typically include collecting and analyzing relevant evidence from the complainant, the institution, and other sources; conducting interviews of the complainant, the institution’s personnel, and other witnesses; and conducting site visits, if appropriate. Additional information about the office is available at the OCR website.

Members of the public may view the full list of all open investigations of complaints alleging violations of any of the federal civil rights laws at the OCR website on Pending Cases Currently Under Investigation.


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