update deskSchools & Higher Education

US government investigating NY, MA school districts, Eastern Washington University

Seekonk Public Schools, Yonkers Public Schools and the Cheney, Wash. university are being probed for alleged Title VI violations.

U.S. Department of Education. Credit: DC Stock Photography/Shutterstock.
U.S. Department of Education. Credit: DC Stock Photography/Shutterstock.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced Title VI investigations on Tuesday of Seekonk Public Schools (Mass.), Yonkers Public Schools (N.Y.) and Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash.

The department doesn’t announce the specific reasons for the probes, although they relate to Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination “involving shared ancestry,” including antisemitism.

“I have just learned of this complaint this afternoon, and the university is in the process of trying to learn more,” Dave Meany, director of communications and media relations at Eastern Washington University, told JNS on Tuesday.

The 142-year-old public school “has been very vocal about creating an inclusive environment for all students as well as providing resources to report incidents of bias or to share concerns,” Meany said.

A Jewish high school basketball team experienced antisemitic slurs and pro-Hamas statements during a Dec. 4 game at Roosevelt High School, which is one of the 39 schools in Yonkers Public Schools. The 143-year-old district serves 25,500 public-school students; and 4,689 charter and parochial and private schools, per its site. 

Justin Samuels, who lives in New York City, told JTA that he filed the complaint because “high school athletes were targeted for a war thousands of miles away that [they] did not start nor have any control over. That is the definition of racism. There should have been no mention of the war at this game.”

“I’m happy that OCR agreed that was illegal discrimination and is investigating,” he told the wire.

The Seekonk Public Schools district includes a high school, middle school and two elementary schools, and enrolled 2,061 students in the 2023-24 academic year.

The district “has been made aware of a Title VI complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Education. The district welcomes this independent investigation and will fully comply with the DOE,” Bridget McNamara, confidential secretary to Rebecca Kidwell, superintendent of schools at the Seekonk School Department, told JNS.

“The district is confident of the outcome and will accept the final report and recommendations, if any,” McNamara said. “As the students involved are minors, and out of respect for the integrity of the investigation, the district will have no further comment at this time.”

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