Harvard and NYC Education Department face federal probe over allegations of antisemitism and Islamophobia

The US Department of Education added Harvard University and the New York City Department of Education to a growing list of universities and school districts that are being investigated over alleged incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia following the October 7 attacks by Hamas against Israel.

The announcement comes just days before Harvard president Claudine Gay is scheduled to testify before Congress at a hearing on antisemitism on campus, along with MIT president Sally Kornbluth and University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill.

The hearing, which is set for Tuesday, will be held by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

There have been hundreds of protests and counterprotests on these campuses, with some of them turning violent. The faces and names of some students allegedly linked to anti-Israel statements were displayed on mobile billboards last month near the Harvard campus.

The Office of Civil Rights announced earlier this month that it was investigating “reports of antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, and other forms of discrimination and harassment on college campuses and in K-12 schools” since the conflict escalated in the Middle East, naming schools including Cornell University, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.

The Department of Education plans to make recommendations to the schools at the conclusion of this first-of-its-kind investigation. Schools that refuse to address the problems identified in their investigation could lose federal funding or be referred to the Department of Justice for further action.

A spokesperson for Harvard told CNN in a statement, “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.”

Nathaniel Styer, press secretary for New York City Public School, told CNN, “hate or bias of any kind has no place in our public schools.”

“We are taking concrete steps to ensure our schools continue to be safe, welcoming, and respectful places for all our students and staff. We received notice of an investigation by the USDOE and will cooperate fully,” Styer said in a statement.

The investigations were launched under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which says universities and K-12 schools have a responsibility to provide all students with an environment free from discrimination. Anyone can file a Title VI complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

The Education Department also recently updated its discrimination complaint form, specifying that Title VI’s protection from discrimination based on race, color or national origin extends to students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Sikh, or based on other shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Rene Marsh and Katie Lobosco contributed to this report.

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