Stop the Hate: Massachusetts Task Force Creates Student Civil Rights Project to Combat Problem

By Mahoney, Jeremy | Corrections Today, August 1999 | Go to article overview

Stop the Hate: Massachusetts Task Force Creates Student Civil Rights Project to Combat Problem


Mahoney, Jeremy, Corrections Today


Massachusetts Task Force Creates Student Civil Rights Project to Combat Problem

Hate crimes create fear, mistrust and hostility among society members. They occur in communities worldwide and no one is exempt from them. However, society must remain diligent in stopping crimes motivated by racial, religious, national origin, disabilities, sexual orientation, culture and gender biases. Through the collaborative efforts of educators, law enforcement and communities, issues of hate and bias-motivated violence can be addressed. It is through teaching respect for individual differences that will cease hate and prejudice in society.

The underreporting of hate crimes is a serious problem for both law enforcement and investigators. Witnesses sometimes fear retaliation from perpetrators if they report crimes to police and many victims worry that police will not believe their accounts and will revictimize them. Victims must report these crimes to police, and law enforcement personnel need proper training in identifying bias-motivated crimes. Through expanded training and technical assistance from legal experts, educators and civil rights advocates, police departments will become better equipped to handle incidents of hate-motivated violence as they occur.

Massachusetts recognizes the seriousness of these crimes and is increasing prevention efforts within the school systems. Since many perpetrators of hate crimes are under the age of 20, it is imperative that we identify incidents in schools and colleges. To meet this challenge, the Governor's Task Force on Hate Crimes created the Student Civil Rights Project to provide assistance and support for students, parents, educators and law enforcement by creating school environments that are safe and free of harassment and violence. The Student Civil Rights Project began in 1998 under the leadership of Executive Director Christina Bouras and Student Civil Rights Director David Rudewick. Both individuals provide continual support to schools and law enforcement agencies through training sessions and on-site visits.

Internship Program

The first initiative of the Student Civil Rights Project was the 1998 Summer Internship Program, which brought together a working group of college and high school students from across Massachusetts to explore, identify, review and recommend curriculum and resources that school communities could implement to prevent hatred, prejudice and violence within the school setting. The 10 student interns were from different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds and each brought his or her own prejudices, biases and beliefs to the program. They spent a significant amount of time confronting their feelings and attitudes toward people who are different from themselves. Much of the time focused on sharing personal experiences of discrimination or harassment. Each intern was able to recall at least one situation in which he or she had been discriminated against because of individual culture, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. It was an enlightening experience for each individual involved.

The 4-week program was held at Northeastern University in Boston. The interns stayed in the campus dormitories. Discussions were held in a conference room and research was conducted in computer labs. The interns received training in civil rights laws and history from legal experts and civil rights organizations. The Anti-Defamation League, Attorney General's Office, Facing History and Ourselves and National Conference for Community Justice were some of the organizations that made presentations during the program. The interns were given the opportunity to venture into the community and research the history of the civil rights marches and the Holocaust. This experience allowed the interns to view the issue of civil rights in different ways.

Internet Presence

The centerpiece of the internship program was the creation of a youth-focused Web site - stopthehate. …

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