NYC schools face Biden administration probe of antisemitism, Islamophobia

NEW YORK — The Biden administration has launched an investigation into discrimination in New York City’s public school system, the latest in a series of federal probes of antisemitism and Islamophobia at schools across the U.S. this fall.

The federal Education Department declined to describe the contours of its investigation into the city Department of Education, but said the investigation began on Tuesday and was part of a series of “ancestry investigations.”

The probes have focused on complaints of antisemitism and anti-Muslim bigotry, according to the Biden administration. Two of the probes have focused on Columbia University and Cooper Union.

The probe into the city’s schools came less than a week after hundreds of students stormed the hallways of Hillcrest High School in Queens in protest of a Jewish teacher who had attended a pro-Israel rally, ​according to officials and video published on social media.

Schools Chancellor David Banks described the incident as “completely unacceptable.” Mayor Eric Adams said the event was animated by “ignorance-fueled hatred.”

The city Education Department confirmed on Wednesday that it had received notice of the investigation from the federal Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.

​A city Education Department spokesman, Nathaniel Styer, said the city would comply fully with the probe.

“As Chancellor Banks has made clear on numerous occasions, hate or bias of any kind has no place in our public schools,” Styer said in a statement.

“We are taking concrete steps to ensure our schools continue to be safe, welcoming, and respectful places for all our students and staff,” he added.

It was not clear if the Hillcrest High School incident would be at the center of the investigation. Styer said the city had not been informed of the exact subject of the probe.

Anxieties around antisemitism and Islamophobia have grown at American schools — especially universities — after Hamas staged its terror attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, a ruthless surprise assault that prompted Israel to launch a bloody war campaign in Gaza.

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement two weeks ago that the federal government’s probes into bigotry at schools underlined how seriously the White House takes its “responsibility to protect students from hatred and discrimination.”

“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,” Cardona added.