MPAC Urges DoE to Implement Full Strategy to Protect Students from Discrimination

March 15, 2024 Statements

Washington, D.C. | | March 15, 2024 — In preparation for the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, the U.S. Department of Education’s (DoE) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a statement reaffirming the obligation of all schools to combat discrimination against Muslim, Arab, Sikh, South Asian, Hindu, and Palestinian students. This reminder, sent as a Dear Colleague Letter, reminds schools of their legal and financial responsibility under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) to protect all students who report harassment in schools. 

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) welcomes the acknowledgment of the increase in hate and harassment faced by students of color in our schools, however, this recognition is long overdue. This letter is prompted by our active participation in several standalone meetings and listening sessions convened to address this pressing issue and the need for the DoE to respond accordingly. In these engagements, we issued recommendations to the Department following these meetings, seeking tangible actions rather than empty rhetoric.

The importance of these recommendations is especially critical right now as American Muslim students are facing an unprecedented torrent of hate both online and in person. Most concerning have been charges levied by lawmakers and leaders in civil society claiming pro-peace and pro-Palestinian students are Hamas sympathizers or are being supported by Russia or other foreign adversaries and must be investigated by federal authorities. These baseless allegations have created a McCarthyist atmosphere, one that is destroying the lives of countless students across the country.

 Mohammad Ali, MPAC Director of Government Relations

It is of the utmost importance that all students, regardless of their background, feel protected and respected in educational institutions. For far too long, the experiences of marginalized students have been consistently undermined and dismissed, subjecting many to cycles of bigotry and violence. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), there has been a 178% increase in Anti-Muslim and Anti-Palestinian hate incidents following October 7. We must confront the fact that our schools are not immune to the hatred flooding our communities as a result of our foreign policy. 

The Administration’s blind support for Israel, echoed in legislation that targets students advocating for Palestine, coupled with the media’s ongoing one-sided narrative about the realities facing Palestinians, not only undermines the Biden administration’s objectives of their proposed National Strategy to Combat Islamophobia but also conveys a harmful message to Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim Americans, particularly children, that their well-being is not a priority.

The safety and well-being of all students are of paramount importance to us at MPAC. As the global Muslim community turns to our leaders for direction and action, we urge the Biden Administration to implement the additional recommendations that we submitted to the DoE to ensure the safety and security of students so that all feel protected and supported. Every student, irrespective of race, religion, or ethnicity, deserves the right to learn without the threat of prejudice or bias. The Biden Administration must stand firm in upholding the values of justice, dignity, and the right to free speech for all. 

Listed below are resources from the Department of Education that can assist in holding colleges and P-12 schools accountable in protecting students from discrimination, bullying, harassment, and other forms of intolerance. 

Anyone who believes that a school has discriminated against a student based on race, color, or national origin can file a complaint of discrimination with OCR. To file a complaint, visit OCR is available to provide technical assistance on the application of Title VI to discrimination based on race, color, or national origin as described in the letter released today. To request training, please contact OCR at [email protected].

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