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For Immediate Release

September 24, 2010


Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter and U.S. Congressman Brad
Sherman announced the introduction of legislation to protect students from religious

Recently, there have been multiple incidents involving anti-Se-mitic, anti-Muslim, and
anti-Sikh epithets, slurs and obscenities, and even physical vi-olence towards students at
American schools.

“All students should be protected from discrimination and harassment on the basis of
their religion as well as their race, color, and national origin,” said Senator Specter. “We
need to close the loop-hole that allows students to be harassed and threatened because of
their religion. The law specifically forbids discrimination on the basis of religion in
virtually every other area, including employment and housing, and it’s about time it
protects our students as well. This legislation will give the Department of Education
clear jurisdiction over all incidents involving harassment on the basis of religion and will
assure all of our students are equally protected.”

“We need to act to protect students of all faiths against invidious discrimination and
harassment, which is why I am joining with Senator Specter to amend the Civil Rights
Act,” said Congressman Brad Sherman. “No student should be subjected to
discrimination on the ground of their religious beliefs. Currently, the Department of
Education has the authority under existing law to protect Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh
students and, frankly, I’m flabbergasted that they have not already acted to protect these

Congress passed Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect students from
discriminatory harassment. Title VI prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, or
national origin.” Unfortunately, the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of
Education (OCR) recently revised its policy and decided that it does not apply to acts of
discrimination against Jewish students (and by implication students of groups with both
religious and ethnic characteristics).

The Department of Education (DOE) has the authority under Title VI to act
independently now to protect students from Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh discrimination. In
fact, surprisingly, the current position of the Department of Education (DOE) is a reversal
of an earlier interpretation which served to protect these students as the Specter-Sherman
legislation would require.

A number of recent and unfortunate incidents that highlight the need for a new
interpretation include the following:

·At the University of North Dakota, a student was harassed by fellow students with
anti-Semitic slurs and was shot at with a pellet gun.

·At the University of California at Irvine, a Holocaust memorial was destroyed;

posters have depicted women in traditional Muslim garb saying “God bless Hitler;”
swastikas have defaced campus property; and a Jewish student was told to “Go back
to Russia where you came from.”

·At the University of Illinois a Hindu college student was assaulted and called a

· A Sikh seventh-grader in New Jersey faced serious and repeated harassment,

including taunts of “Osama” and a physical assault on school grounds that resulted in
head injuries and contusions.

·A Muslim college student in Illinois was beaten with a handgun in a restroom where
her attacker scrawled on the mirror, “Kill the Muslims” and the same student had a
swastika and “Die Muslims” drawn on her locker.

The Specter-Sherman bill has provisions to ensure that it does not affect the operation of
parochial schools and other types of non-secular education institutions. It also will not
require any schools to accommodate the religious obligations of students beyond the
requirements of current law.

Congressman Eliot Engel is an original cosponsor of Congressman Sherman’s legislation.