While none of the official reasons for the investigation have been made public, the U.S. Department of Education has opened investigations after receiving allegations of antisemitism in both the San Francisco and Oakland unified school districts.
We will admit that it’s a shock headline to say that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has opened investigations over allegations of antisemitism against both the San Francisco Unified School District and the Oakland Unified School District. And it is true, as KTVU reports. Though there is not yet any proof of wrongdoing, nor are any of the allegations even public. And it’s not a stretch to conclude that, legitimate incidents or not, the allegations come from parental angst over the highly charged Israel-Gaza situation, and how that’s playing out in local schools and their curricula.
JCRC released the following statement on today's announcement of the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation on civil rights violations in San Francisco and Oakland School Districts. pic.twitter.com/CX1AeEOBi4— JCRC Bay Area (@SFJCRC) January 19, 2024
The only public statement we have to go on is the above statement from the Bay Area chapter of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), who’ve certainly been aggressive on the public relations front since the October escalation of the Israel-Gaza conflict.
“JCRC Bay Area has recently learned of investigations underway by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights of the San Francisco Unified School District and the Oakland Unified School District, school systems where large numbers of Jewish families have expressed concern for their children's safety amid rising antisemitism,” their statement says. “While we do not yet have information about the subject of the complaints, we have been concerned since October 7 about the safety and belonging of Jewish students in both districts.” (There are nearly 100 school and districts on that list, Stanford University is also one of them.)
And a search of the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) database of “discrimination involving shared ancestry” investigations confirms that both OUSD and SFUSD do have open investigations, but does not confirm whether these are antisemitism allegations. The SFUSD investigation was opened January 12, the OUSD investigation was opened January 16.
Though the OCR adds that “An institution named on this list means that OCR has initiated an investigation of a case concerning that institution. Inclusion on the list does not mean that OCR has made a decision about the case.” It’s just an acknowledgment that someone made an allegation OCR thought merited an investigation, an allegation the likes of which we do not know.
What did Oakland teachers talk about during the Palestine teach-in? » Click the image to read the story https://t.co/tnImBdSZLm— The Oaklandside (@Oaklandside) December 7, 2023
In Oakland, it's not difficult to imagine this is related to the pro-Palestine teach-in this past December that the teacher’s union endorsed, but the district itself opposed. And the Jewish News of Northern California reports that 30 Jewish families transferred their kids out of OUSD in the two months after the initial October 7 Hamas attack and subsequent Israeli military response. Though in a district of 50,000 students (and a beleaguered district at that), it’s unclear how that compares to normal transfer rates in any given two-month period.
S.F. parents call for pro-Palestinian group to be kicked out of city schools for activismhttps://t.co/vEwfHSTTFt— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) December 9, 2023
In San Francisco, the investigation could be related to the October walk-out protesting Israel's attacks, as many people were pretty darned upset that kids used the phrase “from the river to the sea”, alleging the statement is pro-genocidal. (Though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself used the same phrase Thursday). So these may be genuinely alarming incidents we haven’t heard about yet, or they may represent parents with agendas who are trying to push public sentiment one way or the other as the Israel-Gaza controversy continues to rage.
Image: Porsche C. via Yelp