Social Navigation

Biden administration bolsters effort to battle antisemitism and Islamophobia in schools


WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is rolling out new tools Tuesday to address the continued rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses nationwide following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war last month, according to a White House official.

Among the materials are a list of resources from the Education Department for students, parents and staff members aimed at preventing antisemitism and Islamophobia in all school levels, from elementary to college.

The two guides, one meant for young students and one for higher education institutions, were put together by the National Center for Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, a technical assistance center funded by the Education Department, the White House said. 

The new tools build on actions the White House has announced in recent weeks, including creating a national strategy to combat Islamophobia that tasks the departments of Justice and Homeland Security with thwarting growing threats of antisemitism on college campuses in conjunction with campus law enforcement after Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7 killed 1,200 people.

As part of the effort, dozens of cybersecurity and protective security advisers at DHS have been detailed to work with schools as they navigate increasingly tense environments. 

President Joe Biden has been under pressure to respond to mounting incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses. On Friday, Columbia University suspended two student groups critical of Israel, accusing them of violating school policy with threatening rhetoric and intimidation. Cornell University canceled classes for a day this month after violent antisemitic threats led to the arrest of a student. Last month, the FBI said it was investigating death threats against a Palestinian staff member of American University in Washington, D.C.

Senior Education Department leaders will also host listening sessions with educators from preschool to university levels to learn more about how schools have been trying to keep students safe since the war started, the official said. 

There will also be more listening sessions in the coming weeks, organized by the Education Department, with Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Palestinian and Sikh students, educators and staff members. 

The Justice Department also published an updated “hate crimes threat response guide” from the FBI to let people know what steps they should take if they are the subject of one, the official said. It has also been shared with key organizations tracking such threats, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies.  

“These actions will help protect students, engage school and university leaders, and foster safe and supportive learning environments,” the official said. 

The new guide helps people figure out how to respond to potential hate crimes, depending on what form the attacks come in.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.