Senior Deputy Commissioner James N. Baldwin sent a memo to all New York Empire State school districts stating the department has “consistently opposed” Native American mascots.
The memo cited a 2001 memorandum “conclud[ing] that the use of Native American symbols or depictions as mascots can become a barrier to building a safe and nurturing school community and improving academic achievement for all students.”
Not all district have complied with the 2001 memorandum, leading the state to determines that failure to comply can result in “the removal of school officers and the withholding of State Aid.”
“Schools are learning environments; students learn as much through observation of their surroundings as they do from direct instruction,” Baldwin concludes. “In addition to their legal obligations, boards of education that continue to utilize Native American mascots must reflect upon the message their choices convey to students, parents, and their communities.”
According to a court case regarding the district, a judge ruled that the school district not heeding the 2001 memorandum was an “abuse of discretion.” The department’s new memorandum takes that decision to mean that the argument that those mascots are “respectful” is “no longer tenable.”
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Department of Education Office of Civil Rights opens investigation into Harvard University
On Tuesday the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights opened an investigation into Harvard University in order to determine if the school has fulfilled legal obligation to respond to the increase in antisemitic incidents after Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel on October 7th.
The university agreed to cooperate with the investigation in a statement issued Wednesday. “We support the work of the Office for Civil Rights to ensure students’ rights to access educational programs are safeguarded and will work with the office to address their questions,” the statement read.
The DOE has also opened investigations into Columbia University, Cornell University, Wellesley College, and the University of Pennsylvania this month over “discrimination involving shared ancestry” under Title VI.
the investigation was prompted after a complaint which stated Harvard “discriminated against students on the basis of their national origin (shared Jewish ancestry and/or Israeli) when it failed to respond appropriately to reports of incidents of harassment,”
National Review reports that while the Office of Civil Rights does not typically disclose which specific complaints prompted an investigation, there have been several high-profile incidents of antisemitism at Harvard and other Ivy league universities in recent weeks.
Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman sent an open letter to Harvard president Claudine Gay earlier this month which cited the confrontation at the “die-in” and urged her to take action to protect Jewish students.
“Jewish students are being bullied, physically intimidated, spat on, and in several widely-disseminated videos of one such incident, physically assaulted,” Mr. Ackman wrote. “On-campus protesters on the Widener Library steps and elsewhere shout, ‘Intifada! Intifada! Intifada! From the River to the Sea, Palestine Shall be Free!’”
Harvard President Claudine Gay released a statement about “combatting antisemitism” on November 9:
“I affirm our commitment to protecting all members of our community from harassment and marginalization, and our commitment to meeting antisemitism head-on, with the determination it demands,” Gay said. “Let me reiterate what I and other Harvard leaders have said previously: Antisemitism has no place at Harvard.”
Among the antisemitic events that have circulated national news are how just days after the Hamas attack, a 19-year-old Columbia student was arrested for allegedly assaulting an Israeli student who was trying to prevent the suspect from tearing down posters of Israeli hostages. Also at Cornell, a 21-year-old student was arrested for allegedly threatening to murder and rape his Jewish classmates on an anonymous online message board.
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