Anti-Semitism is spreading in K–12 school districts. Even in primary and secondary education, Jews are often viewed as privileged whites and oppressors, with Israel branded as an egregious example of “settler colonialism” and oppression of “indigenous people.” “Liberated ethnic studies” curricula, like the one mandated by California, have created a distinct variant of critical theory aimed at Jews for being Zionist colonial oppressors.

Teachers’ unions are the leading purveyors of this approach. Two years ago, the United Educators of San Francisco adopted a resolution calling for a boycott of Israel. The Chicago Teachers Union instigated pro-Hamas demonstrations in the Windy City after October 7. The union persuaded Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson (a former CTU lobbyist) to condemn Israel in the city council, and it organized a student and faculty “walkout” to show solidarity with Hamas—a city-authorized event that left Jewish students and teachers feeling intimidated. In suburban Seattle, kids as young as seven were recently encouraged to condemn Israel and join in anti-Semitic chants. Oakland Unified School District faces a federal investigation after 30 Jewish families removed their kids from school due to rampant anti-Semitism. And at a high school in New York City, hundreds of students hunted down a female teacher they saw on social media holding a sign supporting Israel.

Marxist ideology is the primary culprit influencing this mind-set, but not the only one. Qatar, a tiny Persian Gulf country that supports Hamas, is funding anti-Semitic “scholarship” not only in American universities but also in K–12 schools. Qatar Foundation International gave $1 million to the New York City Department of Education between 2019 and 2022 for a program featuring a map of the Middle East that erases the Jewish state. The same story played out at a public charter school in Irving, Texas. What other districts in the country might be taking money directly or indirectly from a chief Hamas sponsor? Brown University’s Choices Program, used by more than 1 million high school students nationwide, exhibits a clear anti-Israel bias. According to Brown, the Qataris “purchased and distributed a selection of existing Choices curriculum units to 75 teachers whose districts didn’t have funding to buy them.”

Tools to fight back, however, are available. Governors and state legislatures can begin by blocking “ethnic studies” from the K–12 curriculum and by imposing new teacher-certification requirements. To curb foreign meddling, states should ban school funding or in-kind donations from entities connected with countries that harbor U.S.-designated terrorist organizations. School districts and state boards of education should use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism to root out conduct meeting its standard. Several groups sued the Santa Ana, California, school district in state court for failing to notify parents before approving ethnic studies courses that contain anti-Jewish bias and for harassing Jewish parents at school board meetings.

At the federal level, parents could file formal complaints with the Department of Education for discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Such complaints are increasingly common against colleges and universities, but any school that receives federal funding must comply with Title VI. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce should consider holding a hearing on anti-Semitism in K–12 schools, putting the national spotlight on anti-Jewish administrators and school board leaders.

Local, state, and federal officials have played meaningful roles in fighting back against critical race theory in the classroom. They need to fight equally hard to stop anti-Semitism masquerading as Middle East or ethnic studies.

Photo by ALEX KENT/AFP via Getty Images


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