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Department of Education Probing Chicago District for Antisemitism

The Department of Education will investigate Chicago Public Schools and another K-12 district in Massachusetts, the latest in a flurry of federal probes into discrimination since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war

Neither district would confirm the reason for its investigation to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. But students in Chicago recently staged a major pro-Palestinian walkout that received at least tacit support from the district. And at Natick Public Schools, the district in Massachusetts, rabbis and Jewish parents have complained about antisemitism to the school board.

The investigations, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, join the more than 70 that the education department’s Office of Civil Rights has opened since the outbreak of the war on Oct. 7. Many of them concern either antisemitism or Islamophobia. Although most of these investigations have involved college campuses, a growing number focus on K-12 districts.

Chicago was the site of a student-led, pro-Palestinian walkout on Jan. 30. More than 250 students from at least 15 public schools left class and marched to City Hall in support of a city council resolution calling for a ceasefire. The ceasefire resolution passed the next day after Mayor Brandon Johnson cast the tie-breaking vote. Johnson said he was “incredibly proud” of the student protests.

During the walkout, some students carried signs reading, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a controversial phrase that some Jewish groups say contend is antisemitic and that has factored into several Title VI investigations to date. Many also advocated for an end to US military aid to Israel. One student told Block Club Chicago, a local news site, that he felt district officials were “somewhat supportive” of the walkout. 

In a statement to JTA, a spokesperson for CPS said the district “cannot go into detail about any particular report or investigation due to student and staff privacy protections.” The statement did not refer directly to the walkout. But it did cite the war, antisemitism, and Islamophobia.

“As a system, we recognize that the ongoing conflict in the Middle East has led to an increase in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents,” the spokesperson told JTA in a statement about the investigation. “While CPS actively works to promote student voice and protect students’ constitutional free speech rights, bias-based harm is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

There are other signs that the Title VI complaint might concern the walkout. The district told JTA that, since the walkout date, its Office of Student Protections has held training sessions and conversations at schools where walkouts occurred. It also expedited new mandatory Title VI training for its staff following the walkout. 

Source: https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/antisemitism/article-788204