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Nursery Schoolchildren

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, ADL, and StandWithUs, along with three leading law firms, on Thursday announced a new pilot helpline to provide pro bono legal assistance to parents whose children are experiencing antisemitism in California’s K-12 schools. The pilot program selected California as the first state given a series of troubling incidents of antisemitism in the state’s K-12 schools.

Parents and other interested adults in California can go to the Legal Protection K-12 Helpline to report incidents of antisemitic discrimination, intimidation, harassment, vandalism, or violence that may necessitate legal action. Lawyers will conduct in-depth information-gathering interviews with persons who file reports. In some cases, they may provide pro bono representation on behalf of victims and provide referrals to organizations that can provide non-legal assistance. The lawyers will also, with permission of the individuals involved, use the data they obtain to better understand the scope of the problem and report it to officials responsible for ensuring the laws are followed. If officials do not take action, they will be held accountable.


Dozens of Jewish families have already requested transfers out of California school districts because of severe and persistent antisemitic bullying. Jewish students report being worried about mob violence, including being “jumped” at school. Many have said they remove their Stars of David and no longer wear Jewish camp t-shirts, and that they are learning to keep their heads down and hide their Judaism while they move through their school days in fear.

Earlier this week, the Brandeis Center and ADL filed a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against the Berkeley Unified School District for its failure to address severe and persistent bullying and harassment of Jewish students by peers and teachers.

In the three months after the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, ADL recorded a total of 256 antisemitic incidents in US elementary, middle, and high schools. This represents a more than 140 percent increase from the 105 incidents reported during the same period the previous year.

Kenneth L. Marcus, founder and chairman of the Brandeis Center and the former US Assistant Secretary of Education for the George W. Bush and Donald Trump administrations, noted, “Frankly, school principals and administrators should themselves be cracking down on the surge in anti-Jewish bullying we are witnessing. That is what the law requires. However, far too many are failing in their legal responsibilities and choosing to sweep the escalating antisemitism under the rug. Our legal team stands ready to step into this gap and demand the protections Jewish students are guaranteed under the law.”

The law firms that have stepped up to assist the Jewish organizations in providing pro bono legal protections are Covington & Burling, Dechert LLP, and Akin.

In November 2023, Brandeis and ADL, along with Hillel International, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and other leading law firms, launched the Campus Antisemitism Legal Line (CALL), a helpline to assist students and faculty experiencing antisemitism on college campuses. More than 400 college students and faculty have reached out to report incidents and request assistance. And the Brandeis Center, ADL, AJC, the Potomac Law Group, and Covington & Burling filed a lawsuit in September 2023 challenging the Santa Ana Unified School District on grounds that it failed to abide by the open meeting laws to introduce courses with antisemitic content into its ethnic studies curriculum.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits educational institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating against or allowing others to discriminate against, students based on actual or perceived race, color, and national origin. Title VI protects Jews based on their shared ancestral and ethnic identity. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights recognizes that harassing, marginalizing, demonizing, and excluding Jewish students based on the Zionist component of their Jewish identity is unlawful under Title VI.

The Department of Education is currently investigating complaints filed by Brandeis Center against Wellesley, SUNY New Paltz, the University of Southern California (USC), Brooklyn College, and the University of Illinois, and the Brandeis Center recently filed federal complaints against American University and the University of California for antisemitism on UC Berkeley’s campus.


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