Rights Groups Call on DOE to Address Use of Title VI of Civil Rights Act to Silence Students Advocating for Palestinian Rights
May 14, 2013, New York -- Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights and seven other rights groups sent letters to the Department of Education (DOE) raising concerns about the use of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to silence student speech advocating for Palestinian Rights. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits schools that receive federal financial assistance from discriminating against students because of their race, color, or national origin, and from allowing universities to foster a discriminatory environment on campus.
Said Center for Constitutional Rights Cooperating Counsel Liz Jackson, “The abuse of civil rights laws to silence political views tramples on the First Amendment, and is already causing a tangible, detrimental impact on Arab, Muslim, and other students who espouse particular views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That contravenes the spirit of Title VI and of our Constitution. And it wrongly conflates Jewish identity with uncritical support for Israel.”
The letters address several issues related to Title VI complaints submitted to DOE by Israel-aligned groups alleging anti-Semitic hostile environments for some Jewish students, including the long delay that has characterized these investigations, the politicized nature of the complaints which largely reference student speech that is critical of the Israeli state, and the chilling effect that the complaints and the investigations are having on student advocacy.
Said Center for Constitutional Rights Cooperating Counsel Dima Khalidi, “It is time for the DOE to make clear that its role is not to enforce what politically-motivated groups deem to be acceptable discourse on a college campus. We hope the DOE will clarify its policies and procedures, which have left the door open to factually and legally baseless complaints against students and universities.”
The letters were addressed to DOE Headquarters in Washington D.C., and to the San Francisco Office for Civil Rights
, which is currently investigating several of the Title VI complaints against University of California schools. Other signatories include the Asian Law Caucus, the National Lawyers Guild, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Arab-American Institute, the Council on American-Islamic Relations – California, Jewish Voice for Peace, and American Muslims for Palestine.