Federal investigation launched into Berkeley schools over anti-Semitism

Federal investigation launched into Berkeley schools over anti-Semitism

(KRON) – The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) opened a formal investigation Tuesday into a complaint that the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) failed to address “severe” bullying of Jewish students in classrooms, hallways and in school yards since October 7, 2023.

BUSD Superintendent Enikia Ford Morthel is scheduled to testify this week before the U.S. House Education Committee about events in the school district. This is the Committee’s first hearing on anti-Semitism in K-12 elementary schools.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and national origin in public schools. Approximately 50,000 students attend schools in the Berkeley Unified School District.

The Title VI complaint investigated by the Department of Education was filed by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and the Anti-Defamation League.

The groups claim to have documented dozens of incidents in Berkeley schools, including students chanting “F**k the Jews,” graffiti reading “Kill Jews” and teachers indoctrinating students with one-sided anti-Israel propaganda disguised as education .

The groups filed a complaint in February, asking the Education Department to intervene. The complaint also alleges that Jewish students endured anti-Semitic slurs from their teachers.

The complaint alleges that a Berkeley teacher posted this poster in his classroom.

Instead of addressing teachers’ anti-Semitic behavior, BUSD officials allegedly disrupted Jewish students’ learning by moving them to new classes.

“Berkeley would never stand by and allow vicious threats, harassment and intimidation against any other minority group, but when it comes to Jews, seven months of crickets. To make matters worse, they allow teachers and their staff to indoctrinate students with lesson plans that are full of anti-Semitic phrases and anti-Israel propaganda,” said Kenneth Marcus, former U.S. assistant secretary of education for civil rights under former President Donald Trump.

“Reprehensible is an understatement here. It is past time for BUSD to enforce federal and state laws to combat the dangerous anti-Semitism unfolding before them,” Marcus said.

Some Jewish students left the district due to bullying.

“We believe there is a disturbing and clear pattern of anti-Semitic intimidation and harassment in the Berkeley school system, and we are pleased that the Office of Civil Rights has opened a formal civil rights investigation,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

Greenblatt added: “Jewish elementary school students, like all students, deserve the opportunity to attend school in a climate free from prejudice, threats or prejudice.”