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Kaine Cosponsors Bill to Boost Discrimination Protections for Students

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, cosponsored the Showing Up for Students Act, which provides $280 million in additional funding for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education. The OCR is responsible for protecting the civil rights of students in schools, including from incidents related to antisemitism and Islamophobia. Amid a notable increase in reported incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia in schools across the nation, the bill would provide OCR with more resources to help ensure students are free from harassment and discrimination.

“No student should have to worry about whether they’ll be harassed or discriminated against,” said Kaine. “We have a responsibility to protect our students from antisemitism and Islamophobia. Passing this legislation would provide the Office for Civil Rights with crucial resources to combat discrimination and ensure a safe learning environment for students.”

This effort follows a disturbing rise in incidents involving antisemitic, Islamophobic, and anti-Arab harassment, vandalism, and assault on school campuses. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, between October 1, 2023, and February 15, 2024, OCR received 219 complaints involving Title VI shared ancestry investigations, the category under which complaints relating to antisemitic, Islamophobic, and anti-Arab discrimination are classified. This is a staggering increase of 1,360 percent compared to the same time period the year before. Increasing OCR resources would help handle this surge in complaints.

For years, funding for OCR has not kept up with the increase in need for their services. Through OCR, students can file a complaint against their school administration for failure to prevent or respond to a violation or incident. OCR will then investigate the student’s complaint, make a determination of wrongdoing against the school, and potentially levy consequences against the school administration. The Showing Up for Students Act will ensure OCR has the funding to respond appropriately to these cases, hire additional staff, resolve cases in a timely manner, and increase capacity to help schools proactively prevent the discrimination and harassment of students.

Kaine’s cosponsorship of the Showing Up for Students Act follows his longstanding support for religious freedom. Last November, Kaine wrote to the Department of Education, urging them to take action to combat antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses, including hate speech, harassment and violence. Kaine delivered a speech on Religious Freedom Day where he underscored the need to recommit to the principle of religious freedom and addressed the recent sharp rise in antisemitism, Islamophobia, and threats to other faith-based communities.

The Showing Up for Students Act is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Fetterman (D-PA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), and Laphonza Butler (D-CA).

A summary of the Showing Up for Students Act is available here.