At least seven schools across the U.S. are under investigation after alleged incidents of Islamophobia and antisemitism were reported.
The probe into possible discriminatory behavior is being carried out on three Ivy League schools, Columbia, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania, along with Wellesley College in Massachusetts, Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, and Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York. The Maize Unified School District in Kansas is also part of the list.
The U.S. Department of Education has said it would consider withdrawing funding if administrators don't properly address the issues and comply with recommendations put in place by the federal agency.
Civil rights investigations by the Education Department are now focusing on seven schools as the conflict between Israel and Hamas rages on, causing intensifying tensions between some students and others.
The Education Department launched the probes under Civil Rights Act legislation that puts forth a requirement that campuses and leadership at schools must protect students from discrimination. There are at least five cases that stemmed from accusations of antisemitism, with at least two of the investigations being blamed on incidents of Islamophobia, authorities said.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona signaled that officials believe the escalation incidents are at least somewhat alarming.
"I think we need to match it with a level of response that meets the moment. We need to be listening to our students. We need to let them know that they will be safe in our schools, that we're not going to tolerate hate or threats on campus," he said.
The Department of Education said it would offer another set of recommendations to schools after their investigations have concluded.
"If an institution refuses to follow the law to protect students, we would withhold dollars. That said, I haven't spoken to a college leader that doesn't want to do everything they can to remedy the situation," Cardona said.
Further details on the federal investigations had not been released by late on Saturday.
Last month, at least one arrest was made after a Cornell student was accused of making threats in an antisemitic manner, authorities said. Jewish students at Cooper Union in New York also accused that school of not doing enough to protect them from a perceived threat from a pro-Palestinian demonstration there.
"Colleges should be places where students could express themselves. And it's okay to have different beliefs, and it's okay to express those different beliefs. But when it becomes a threat to students or when students can't feel safe walking from their dorm to their classroom because they're afraid that they're going to get harmed, that's unacceptable," Cardona said.
The Department of Education could release a public statement on the agency's findings and updated recommendations in the coming days or weeks.
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