Governor Charlie Baker’s administration on Monday released a guide to combat hate crimes in schools and announced $400,000 in grants to help school districts implement anti-hate crimes programs and policies.
The School Hate Crime Resource Guide, released by the administration’s Task Force on Hate Crimes and written by researchers from Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice, American University, and the Anti-Defamation League of New England, outlines policies and recommendations for Massachusetts school districts to “respond to bias-related incidents and hate crimes.”
Among its recommendations, the guide urges school officials to create “clear and safe protocols for reporting bias-motivated incidents and a culture that encourages reporting by students, parents, teachers, staff, school administrators, and the community at large” while ensuring that there is no retaliation for reporting such incidents.
The administration also announced a $400,000 grant program administrated by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. School districts will soon be able to apply for up to $50,000 “to fund education, professional development, prevention, and community outreach to reduce crimes motivated by race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability,” the administration said in a statement.
“Providing a safe, healthy, and supportive educational environment is vital to assisting students in their academic success and future careers,” said Jack McDevitt, a researcher at Northeastern’s Institute on Race and Justice and co-author of the guide. “The best way to prevent [bias-motivated] incidents is to teach students, parents, educators, and staff about the devastating impact these incidents have on the individual and the entire community.”
Over the past year, some area school districts have been embroiled in controversy for their handling of biased incidents, notably on high school sports teams.
On Saturday, the Globe reported on efforts by school officials in Danvers to prevent the public from knowing of alleged misconduct on the boys varsity hockey team. In that case, a player reported to police and school officials in June 2020 that he was physically restrained by two teammates while another struck him in the face with a sex toy because he refused to shout a racial slur in one of the all-white team’s regular locker room rituals during the previous season. The alleged victim told the Globe that he believed his teammates did not report the misbehavior out of fear of retaliation.
Last spring, the head coach of the Duxbury High School football team was fired amid a scandal involving the team’s use of antisemitic play calls, including terms such as “rabbi,” “dreidel,” and “Auschwitz.” An ensuing investigation found that the team had been using Jewish words and Holocaust-related terms on the practice field as far back as 2010.
On Monday, the authors of the hate crime guide suggested that schools that do not tolerate retaliation for reporting incidents will experience fewer of them.
“Each school should have a no retaliation rule as part of its written policy and any acts or threats of retaliation should be investigated and responded to swiftly,” the authors wrote.
As part of the procedure for reporting bias-motivated incidents, at least two officials — one from the school level and another at the district level — should be available to receive reports.
“Designated officials, when possible, should not be the same gender and should include multiple genders,” the authors wrote. “Having gendered options allows those reporting bias-motivated incidents greater comfort in reporting sensitive issues.”
The guide also urges districts “who have greater diversity to designate non-white or ethnic and minority school personnel to receive” reports and complaints.