Community listening sessions focus on youth bias crimes

No comments
Image by kalhh from Pixabay 
By Bradford Mason
Managing Editor

Recent racial incidents at two high schools in the state have put a focus on bias crimes and youth. A series of community listening sessions aims raise awareness about the issue.

The state’s Interagency Task Force to Combat Youth Bias recently kicked off the series of the sessions this month focused on the impact of youth bias on communities throughout the state. The first of the four sessions took place on Nov. 13 at Chabad House in New Brunswick, NJ.

Data from the New Jersey State Police by the notes that there were 569 reported bias incidents in New Jersey in 2018 – a number higher than in any year since 2011.

“If we can reach New Jersey’s young people with positive messages about diversity -- as our office is committed to doing every day -- we can shape a future in which our differences are not only tolerated, but celebrated,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We’re not there yet. We clearly have work to do. And coming together to hear from each other is an important step.”

Comparing the past two years, the report also chronicled a stark increase in youth participation in bias offenses.

In 2017, the data showed, 29.6 percent of all known bias offenders in New Jersey were minors.

In 2018, the percentage of known bias offenders who were minors was more than 46 percent. Troublingly, more than a quarter of the reported bias incidents in 2018 occurred at institutions of higher education, and nearly half of the offenders in those incidents were minors.

Last month, two notable racial incidents occurred at state high schools. The first happened in Lawrence, NJ where a video posted to Facebook showed two 17-year-old boys racially harassing Black middle school girls at a high school football game. The second occurred at Watchung Hills Regional High School where a white student dressed in blackface at an off-campus Halloween party.

“While there is debate about the precise cause of this rise, we know that social media, organized hate groups and political rhetoric all play a role,” Division of Civil Rights Director Rachel Wainer Apter said. “The Task Force is holding these listening sessions to hear from students and parents who have been impacted by bias, and to hear what has been successful from those working directly with children to help them recognize our mutual humanity. What we learn during these sessions will inform the recommendations we make in our report, so we encourage all who have been impacted by bias to come speak at a session or submit a written comment on our website.”

The remaining listening sessions will be held on Nov. 20 at Donovan Catholic High School in Toms River from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Nov. 21 at John Wesley United Methodist Church in Bridgeton from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Nov. 25 at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Hackensack,
from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Click here to register to attend.

No comments

Post a Comment