U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Tuesday vowed to pull federal funding if schools fail to combat antisemitism and Islamophobia.
Cardona said that the department’s Office of Civil Rights [OCR] has received “eight or nine” complaints about antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents on school campuses.
The uptick in complaints came in the wake of the Hamas attack launched against Israel on October 7.
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“I would want to provide support for these universities, provide guidance. And if there are egregious acts, I want to make sure that we’re investigating,” Cardona told CNN.
“Ultimately, if we have to withhold dollars from a campus refusing to comply, we would,” he added.
However, even though the Education Department could withhold federal funds, there are other actions he would take against universities’ inaction.
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He added that ensuring a safe learning environment for all students while also protecting students’ rights to free speech could be a “challenge,” CNN reported.
“We want to promote free speech and, to be frank with you, college campuses are where students should be able to express different opinions. But when it comes to antisemitism or Islamophobia, that has no place on our college campuses or in our schools,” Cardona said.
Cardona’s comments came after the Biden administration released a statement saying that schools that receive federal financial assistance have a responsibility to address racial or ethnic discrimination.
Furthermore, the OCR sent a letter to universities reminding them that since they receive federal funds, they have legal obligations under Title VI to provide all students “who are or are perceived” to be Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab, or Palestinian, with a discrimination-free environment.
“Through this letter we urge school communities to be vigilant of your students’ rights under Title VI, understanding that we in OCR are and will be,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon in a press release.
Hamas terrorists launched a surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, firing thousands of rockets and slaying civilians in the streets. At least 1,400 Israeli citizens and 33 Americans were killed. Israel’s retaliatory strikes have killed more than 7,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.
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Pro-Palestinian rallies have erupted on college campuses across the nation since the war began. Dozens of student groups have come under fire for issuing statements supporting Palestinian “martyrs” and “liberators.”
Earlier this week, a University of California, Berkeley, graduate student offered students extra credit if they attended a walkout in support of Gaza.
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FOX News’ Hannah Lambert contributed to this report.