update deskSchools & Higher Education

US Education Department investigating UMass-Amherst, Philadelphia-area school district

Teachers’ speech has been “controversial” of late in the “polarized” school district, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

An aerial view of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Credit: Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.
An aerial view of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Credit: Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.

The U.S. Department of Education announced on Tuesday that it is investigating a Massachusetts public university and a Philadelphia-area school district for alleged violations of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The department’s Office for Civil Rights releases subjects of new investigations weekly, typically on Tuesdays. It is now probing the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the Central Bucks School District for alleged discrimination based on “shared ancestry,” which includes Jew-hatred.

The department does not release details of the investigations. JNS sought comments from the university and the school district.

New England’s largest public research university, UMass-Amherst is tied for 67th in theanual U.S. News & World Report rankings of national universities. The more than 160-year-old school, which has about 25,000 undergraduates, received an “F” grade in the newly released Anti-Defamation League “report card” on Jew-hatred. 

“There have been multiple reported antisemitic incidents on campus that have resulted in police activity,” the ADL said of UMass-Amherst. The ADL added that the school has “hostile anti-Zionist student groups” on campus, where there have been “antisemitic speakers or programs.” The school has no advisory council to address antisemitism, per the ADL.

Pennsylvania’s third-largest school district, Central Bucks School District has 3,000 faculty and staff and “more than 17,000 students in 15 elementary, five middle and three high schools,” per its site.

Youssef Abdelwahab, a Spanish teacher at Central Bucks High School West and adviser of its Muslim Student Association, was cleared by the district last month following complaints from parents that he was “brainwashing” students with antisemitic views, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Abdelwahab, who remains listed on the school’s faculty, wrote “Resistance is justified when people are occupied” a few days after Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel, according to a complaint from parents, which the Inquirer viewed.

In the “polarized” school district, “teachers’ speech has been controversial in Central Bucks in recent years,” per the Inquirer.

“The new Democrat-led board recently rolled back a policy enacted by the previous Republican majority that barred teachers from advocating to students about ‘partisan, political or social policy issues,’” it added. “The measure was criticized as targeting Pride flags and support for LGBTQ students.”

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