New York, NY, January 5, 2016 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed a Department of Education (DoE) letter sent to school districts and colleges and universities across the country which reminded them of their obligations to prohibit discrimination based on actual or perceived race, religion, or national origin.
The “Dear Colleague” letter calls for schools to ensure safe spaces for students especially “at risk” during these times – including those who are, or are perceived to be from a religious minority, including Jewish, Muslim or Sikh; from an ethnic minority including students of color; or those who are perceived to be of a different nationality including from the Middle East, Syria, or other Arab countries. The letter builds on the DoE’s historic October 2010 bullying prevention guidance and encourages schools to take steps to foster welcoming and inclusive environments for students of different backgrounds and beliefs.
“With students returning to school this week, we strongly welcome the Department of Education’s important reaffirmation that all schools must provide safe and respectful learning environments in which students are free from discrimination and harassment based on their race, religion, or national origin,” said Marvin D. Nathan, ADL National Chair.
“The Department of Education has made clear that school administrators must also address the broader environment and the effect of these incidents and take steps to ensure that harassment does not recur,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “Federal leadership on this important issue is critical to ensure that schools are safe places for all students, and that they help foster a culture in which bias and bullying are not tolerated. DoE’s letter is an important reminder that our nation, founded as a place of refuge for those fleeing religious persecution, can and will protect students from being bullied or harassed because of their race, religion, or national origin.”
ADL strongly supported the Department’s trailblazing 2010 Dear Colleague guidance, which outlined serious legal obligations for schools to prevent a broad range of bullying and harassment, rightly interpreted the federal civil rights laws to protect Jewish students on campus from anti-Semitic harassment, and stressed that when responding to an incident of discriminatory harassment where a hostile environment is formed, it is not enough for the institution to punish the student who is responsible.
Through a combination of education and legislative advocacy, including drafting a model state bullying prevention law which requires schools and communities to approach the issue of bullying with proactive and innovative measures, ADL has been at the forefront of promoting anti-bias education and responding to bias, bullying and cyberbullying. All 50 states have now adopted bullying prevention policies, many based on the League’s model.