The U.S. Department of Education (ED) will investigate The University of Tampa and the Hillsborough County Schools school district in Florida for alleged cases of discrimination, CNN reported.
The two schools join several others being investigated by ED for such discrimination and hate – including Columbia University, Cornell University, and the University of Pennsylvania – a list increasing in size amid the ongoing the Israel-Hamas war. ED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is handling the investigations, which is struggling from an unprecedented number of hate investigations, according to an ED official.
OCR aims to resolve investigations within six months. UTampa finds itself under investigation for an incident in September, before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, universities and K-12 schools must provide students with a discrimination-free environment. Anyone can file a Title VI complaint with OCR. This year, OCR has opened 27 Title VI investigations, compared with 15 similar ones in 2022 and 2 in 2021.
Schools risk losing federal funding by not complying with OCR recommendations. But investigations typically end with the school agreeing to address the incident or making policy changes for systemic issues.
Tensions and hostility have seen a marked rise on college campuses since the Israel-Hamas conflict was reignited in October.
In November, ED issued guidance to colleges and K-12 schools, reminding them of their legal obligation to address discrimination – including against those who are Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab, or Palestinian. The department also recently updated its discrimination complaint form, specifying that Title VI extends to students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Sikh, or based on other shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.