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ADL to Congress: Improve Campus Hate Crimes Data Collection

Note: The following is the text of a letter sent to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Chair, and Sen. Michael B. Enzi, Ranking Member, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and to Rep. George Miller, Chair, and Rep. Howard McKeon, Ranking Member, House Education and Labor Committee, in an effort to support a provision that would improve campus hate crime data collection, and calling for changes that would give students and parents a more complete picture about campus safety.

March 26, 2008

Dear Chairmen Kennedy and Miller and Ranking Members Enzi and McKeon:

As members of the House Education and Labor Committee and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee meet to reconcile differences in the Higher Education Act reauthorization legislation, the undersigned civil rights, religious, education, law enforcement, human rights, professional, and civic organizations urge you to support the House-passed provision to improve campus hate crime data collection (H.R. 4137, Title IV, Section 488). This simple, straightforward provision will merely make the Department of Education's campus hate crime categories identical to the crime categories that have been collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under the Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) since 1991. This much needed change will give students and parents a more complete picture about campus safety.

Every year, thousands of students are the victims of bias-motivated slurs, vandalism, threats, and physical assaults on college campuses. In 1998, to increase awareness of hate violence on college campuses, Congress enacted an amendment to the Higher Education Act (HEA) requiring all colleges and universities to collect and report hate crime statistics to the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) of the Department of Education. Currently, colleges must report only those crimes involving bodily injury in which the victim was targeted because of his/her race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or disability. Unfortunately, the Department of Education’s current hate crime statistics reflect very substantial underreporting http://ope.ed.gov/security/Search.asp. Even worse, the limited available data directly conflicts with campus hate crime information collected by the FBI under the HCSA.

For example:

  • In 2006, the FBI recorded 10 hate crimes at the University of Connecticut. OPE reported zero;
  • At the University of Minnesota, the FBI has reported 22 hate crimes since 2004. OPE has reported zero hate crimes at Minnesota over that time period;
  • Virginia Tech University has reported 15 hate crimes to the FBI since 2004. OPE has reported zero hate crimes at Virginia Tech over that period.

The inconsistencies in the current data gathered by the Department of Education and the FBI result, in large part, from discrepancies between the FBI definition of a hate crime and the HEA definition. The FBI definition includes larceny/theft, intimidation, simple assault, and destruction/damage/vandalism – all categories currently omitted by the Department of Education. The omission of these crime categories has resulted in significant gaps in OPE data, substantial inconsistencies between FBI and OPE statistics, and confusion for parents and students trying to obtain a more accurate sense of campus security issues. The House-passed HEA reauthorization legislation we support merely adds the omitted crime categories to the Department of Education hate crime data collection mandate. Uniform hate crime data collection efforts will also enable campus police to utilize the excellent FBI hate crime training materials already widely in use across the country.

In 2006, the FBI documented over 7,700 hate crimes, reported by more than 12,600 law enforcement agencies across the country. Schools and colleges were the third most-frequent location for these hate crimes. The HCSA has proven to be a powerful mechanism to confront violent bigotry against individuals on the basis of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin. Importantly, the HCSA has also increased public awareness of the problem and sparked critical improvements in the local response of the criminal justice system to hate violence.

We urge you to support the House-passed provision to revise the Department of Education hate crime categories to make them parallel those collected by the Department of Justice.

Sincerely,

9to5, National Association of Working Women
African American Ministers in Action
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
American Federation of Teachers
American Islamic Congress
American Jewish Committee
American Psychological Association
Anti-Defamation League
Asian American Justice Center
Association for Gender Equity Leadership in Education
Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
B'nai B'rith International
Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests (BMC)
Buddhist Peace Fellowship
Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism
CenterLink
Church of the Brethren Witness
Church of Scientology
Disciples Justice Action Network
Equal Partners in Faith
Feminist Majority
GLSEN - the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America
Human Rights Campaign
Human Rights First
The Interfaith Alliance
International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators
International Association of Chiefs of Police
Islamic Society of North America
Japanese American Citizens League
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Foundation for Group Homes
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Jewish War Veterans of the USA
Jewish Women International
KESHET
KeshetRabbis: The Alliance of Gay-Friendly Conservative Rabbis
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
MANA, A National Latina Organization
Men of Reform Judaism
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
More Light Presbyterians
Muslim Advocates
Muslim Public Affairs Council
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Coalition for the Homeless
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of La Raza
National Council of Women’s Organizations
National Council on Independent Living
National Education Association (NEA)
National Fair Housing Alliance
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National League of Cities
National Organization for Women
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Urban League
National Women’s Law Center
North American Federation of Temple Youth
Organization of Chinese Americans
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National
People For the American Way
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
Southern Poverty Law Center
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
United Methodist Church, General Commission on Religion and Race
United States Student Association
Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches
Women of Reform Judaism
Women’s Research & Education Institute (WREI)
The Woodhull Freedom Foundation
Yad HaChazakah-The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center Inc
YWCA USA
cc: House Education and Labor Committee
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee

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Currently, colleges must report only those crimes involving bodily injury in which the victim was targeted because of his/her race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or disability. Unfortunately, the Department of Education’s current hate crime statistics reflect very substantial underreporting.