Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) and Michael S. Day (D-Stoneham) announced the filing of legislation aimed at curbing bias incidents and hate crimes in public schools across the Commonwealth.
The bill directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in coordination with the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) and the Governor’s Hate Crimes Task Force, to establish a grant program for the education and prevention of hate crimes and incidences of bias in public schools.
“Incidents of hate or bias have no place in Massachusetts, or anywhere in our country,” said Senator Moore. “Schools are meant to be safe, supportive environments for our students and staff, and this grant initiative will provide the resources school districts need to help prevent hate crimes and to encourage victims to come forward to report incidents.”
“Massachusetts is the birthplace of American values, and one of the fundamental tenets of those values is our commitment to inclusion and equality in society,” said Representative Day. “Sadly, we are seeing the number of hate crimes climb precipitously as intolerance and prejudice have begun to creep into everyday life. We can combat this ignorance with education, and I am hopeful this proposal will provide support to our schools striving to provide that education.”
“Seemingly every day a violent and threatening incident motivated by intolerance and bigotry is carried out in every pocket of the Commonwealth,” said Aaron Agulnek, Director of Government Affairs, Jewish Community Relations Council. “We must meet this crisis head-on through education, community intervention and meaningful partnerships. Our public schools and institutions are best positioned to develop a generation of residents committed to understanding and respect.”
Under the bill, grants would support awareness and prevention programs in school districts for education, professional development, prevention, and community outreach. Priority would be given to communities with an identified need.
In general, a hate crime is a criminal offense intentionally directed at an individual or property in whole or in part because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. According to a report by EOPSS, 438 hate crimes were reported in 2017 in Massachusetts with 53.9 percent of those crimes based on race, ethnicity and national origin bias— up from 52.8 percent in 2016. This follows national increases in reported hate crimes since the 2016 presidential election. ADL (the “Anti-Defamation League”) has also reported that in Massachusetts, there were 93 reported anti-Semitic incidents occurring in schools, an over 86 percent increase as compared to 2016, which saw 50 incidents.
The Governor’s Hate Crimes Task Force was first established by Governor Bill Weld in 1991 and later disbanded by Governor Romney in 2003. In 2017, Governor Baker relaunched the Task Force after a rise in racist, antisemitic and anti-immigrant incidents.
In the coming weeks, the legislation, An Act establishing a hate crimes grant program, will be referred to a legislative committee for review. To continue tracking the legislation, visit the Legislature’s website, www.malegislature.gov.