On October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA). The HCPA allows the federal government to provide assistance in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes—or, in limited circumstances, to investigate and prosecute hate crime cases when a locality is unable or unwilling to prosecute. Second, it ensures that crimes which target their victims because of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability are all covered by the law.
This lesson provides an opportunity for middle and high school students to understand the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, learn about how hate escalates, connect the understanding of the escalation of hate with Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr.’s murders and consider what young people can do in their schools and communities to prevent hate crimes.