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Texas High School Accused of Ignoring Anti-Jewish Abuse

A Dallas teenager faced antisemitic bullying at Hillcrest High School and district officials failed to adequately respond, a federal civil rights complaint alleges.

The student was taunted with names like “dirty Jew,” heard other teens praise Hitler and was told to “Go bathe in Auschwitz where you belong,” according to the complaint. He reported swastika drawings to the administration, including one in a bathroom stall alongside the words: “Burn the Jews.”

The 17-page complaint detailed how the teenager, who is not named, kept a log of antisemitic incidents dating back to 2021. The filing was submitted Tuesday to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights by the student and StandWithUs, a nonprofit that works to combat antisemitism and support Israel.

“Despite the fact that all of these incidents took place in DISD classrooms, and though [the student] is aware that at least some of these horrific comments were heard by faculty members present at the time, there is no evidence of any appropriate response consistent with DISD policy or federal regulation and guidance,” the complaint states.

Dallas schools spokeswoman Robyn Harris said the district will not comment on issues related to student privacy and has not formally received the complaint.

“Dallas ISD prides itself on fostering a diverse and inclusive environment that celebrates all ethnicities, religions, cultures, and backgrounds,” she said in a statement. “Any attempt to undermine this belief is taken very seriously, as we have zero tolerance for such behavior.”

While the issues alleged in the complaint date back to 2021, its filing comes at a time when American campuses increasingly are grappling with reverberations of the Israel-Hamas war.

After the war broke out, Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde released a statement stressing that “antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Asian, racism, or discrimination of any kind has no place in Dallas ISD.”

The family’s complaint lays out steps they want Dallas ISD compelled to do, including the appointment of an investigator to examine campus climate, a task force on how to improve Jewish life in the district and age-appropriate programming on addressing antisemitic harassment.

The Office for Civil Rights enforces federal laws that protect students against discrimination. The office is tasked with investigating complaints at colleges, universities and K-12 campuses. The probes regularly take months — even years — to reach a resolution.

If investigators determine a school violated the law and local officials refuse to address the issue, it can put their federal funding at risk. Cases can also be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice.

A month after the Israel-Hamas war began in the fall, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon released a “Dear Colleague” letter reminding school leaders of their legal obligation to address discrimination against Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab and Palestinian students based on their identities.

“Hate-based discrimination, including based on antisemitism and Islamophobia among other bases, have no place in our nation’s schools,” she wrote.

The Biden administration later shared a list of educational institutions under investigation for discrimination involving shared ancestry. It includes more than 120 open probes. Many of them began after the start of the war.

StandWithUs has filed federal civil rights complaints against several universities across the country in recent months. The Dallas ISD complaint is its first against a public school district.

https://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/2024/04/10/antisemitic-bullying-at-dallas-high-school-alleged-in-federal-civil-rights-complaint/