Civil rights complaint prompts DISD to seek assistance from museum’s educators 
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A complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights April 9, 2024, by a Hillcrest High School Jewish student and StandWithUs. Read the full complaint at http://bit.ly/3vSGPRI.

By Steve Wisch

The Dallas Independent School District has sought help from the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum to combat antisemitism in the district. The move was prompted by an April 9 complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights by a Hillcrest High School Jewish student and StandWithUs.

Mary Pat Higgins, the museum’s president, confirmed Monday that since last week’s civil rights complaint, discussions between DISD officials, the museum’s top educators and Jewish community leaders will result in training and education about antisemitism, all forms of hate and the Holocaust for DISD personnel, including teachers and administrators that will begin this week.

Higgins explained that the museum already partners with many schools in DISD and the Metroplex area to educate students about hatred. Education extends from the early years of elementary school through high school.

The complaint provides allegations of graphic incidents of antisemitism at Hillcrest High School, including verbal abuse, invoking the name of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and blatant slurs as set out in the complaint. It alleges that the blatant acts of antisemitism occurred in plain view of Hillcrest High School teachers and administrators who failed to respond in any meaningful way to the racial slurs.

Dallas Jewish community leader Kenneth E. Goldberg is a graduate of Hillcrest High School and is the chair, appointed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, of the Texas Holocaust, Genocide and Antisemitism Commission. Ironically, as noted by Goldberg, in the 1960s and 1950s a substantial percentage of students at Hillcrest High were Jewish. Due to demographic shifts, the school’s student body no longer has such a large percentage of Jewish students.

Goldberg noted that the official policy of the State of Texas is that all Texas public school students receive formal education about the Holocaust, antisemitism and all forms of prejudice.

“This is the law of the State of Texas. It’s mandatory,” Goldberg said.

Governor Abbott has been a fierce and passionate advocate against antisemitism.

“Antisemitism is never acceptable in Texas and we will do everything we can to fight it,” Abbott said March 27. “The State of Texas stands with Israel and the Jewish community and we must escalate our efforts to protect against antisemitism at Texas colleges and universities and across the state.”

In the wake of Hamas’ massacre of approximately 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7 of last year, incidents of antisemitism have skyrocketed in America and throughout the world. Rising antisemitism and its perils led Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Work Force, to hire a special adviser whose sole responsibility is to assist the committee in investigating antisemitism at colleges and universities, including Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as other institutions of higher education.

“People don’t realize that many of the same concerns we have about rising antisemitism on college campuses are playing out in high schools like Hillcrest,” said Roz Rothstein, StandWithUs’ chief executive officer. StandWithUs is an international nonprofit educational organization dedicated to combating antisemitism, prejudice and all forms of hatred.

DISD spokeswoman Robyn Harris told the Dallas Morning News that the district would not formally comment on the civil rights complaint.

“DISD prides itself in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment that celebrates all ethnicities, religions, cultures and backgrounds,” she said in a formal statement. “Any effort to undermine this belief is taken very seriously as we have zero tolerance for such behavior.”

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