WASHINGTON (JTA) — A U.S. congressman is asking the Department of Education to clarify its position on the protection of Jewish students against anti-Semitic discrimination.
In a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) expresses his concern about the response to "anti-Semitic incidents aimed at Jewish students at several colleges and universities" by the department’s Office for Civil Rights.
The civil rights office concluded in 2007 that it lacked jurisdiction over such incidents because Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on "race, color or national origin." The office said none of those categories applies to anti-Semitism.
Sherman’s letter argues that "under the federal courts’ interpretations of various civil rights statutes, Jews are both a racial and a national origin group," and asks for a clarification of the civil rights office’s policy.
The office made the decision after a 2004 complaint filed by the Zionist Organization of America alleging a pattern of anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination at the campus of the University of California, Irvine.