New FBI Data: School-Based Hate Crimes Jumped 25 Percent Last Year — for the Second Year in a Row
According to newly released data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, reported hate crimes in K-12 schools and colleges increased by 25 percent last year, marking the second consecutive year with such a significant rise in incidents. This trend of rising hate crimes has continued for the third consecutive year across all locations, with a 17 percent increase reported in 2017. Among all reported hate crimes, the highest percentage (28 percent) occurred in or near homes, while schools had a higher frequency of hate crime reports compared to commercial offices, government buildings, and churches.
Furthermore, while the number of hate crimes rose, there was also an increase in the number of local law enforcement agencies providing data on hate crimes to the federal government. In 2017, an additional 1,000 law enforcement agencies submitted information on hate crimes, compared to the previous year. The FBI has prioritized hate crimes within its civil rights program and is collaborating with local police to encourage better reporting.
The increase in reported hate crimes can partly be attributed to improved reporting practices, but advocacy groups have observed a rise in incidents since the start of the 2016 presidential election campaigns. The Southern Poverty Law Center conducted a survey of education leaders shortly after President Donald Trump was elected, revealing an increase in verbal harassment, incidents involving swastikas, and Nazi salutes. In the first month of the current school year, the center identified 43 hate incidents in schools, with a majority of them relating to anti-black racism.
Maureen Costello, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project, commented on the situation, stating that there has been an influx of reports concerning hateful incidents in schools and expressing concern about the normalization of hate and extremism among children. She emphasized that hate does not have boundaries and can infiltrate school environments.
However, Nadine Connell, director of the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, offered a more optimistic perspective. While divisive campaign rhetoric may have emboldened some individuals to act on their hateful inclinations, it could have also led to greater reporting by both victims and law enforcement. Connell stated that the increase in reported hate crimes signifies a positive development, as it highlights the need for change and initiates conversations about these issues. She also pointed out that the FBI data may not represent the complete scope of hate crimes in America, given the historically low reporting rates.
Among the 7,175 hate crimes reported to the FBI last year, 10.5 percent occurred at schools and colleges. The data also revealed demographic information about hate crime offenders and victims, with 17 percent of perpetrators being minors and 12 percent of hate crime victims falling into the same age group.
While the FBI does not differentiate clearly between universities and K-12 schools in its data, Connell believes that hate crimes are more prevalent at the college level.
Following a tragic incident where 11 people were killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue, a report has revealed a concerning 17 percent rise in anti-Semitic attacks. The data from the FBI shows that more than half of the victims of anti-religious hate crimes were targeted because of their Jewish faith.
Furthermore, the Anti-Defamation League has reported a significant increase in anti-Semitic incidents on school and college campuses last year. The number of incidents doubled in colleges, prompting an investigation after a photo went viral showing Wisconsin high school students making Nazi salutes.
The latest FBI data demonstrates that over half of hate crimes reported in K-12 schools and colleges in 2017 were based on race or ethnicity. One quarter of the incidents were religion-based. In Massachusetts, an elementary school girl who is Muslim faced harassment as she received threatening notes at school, branding her a terrorist and threatening her life.
According to Connell, an expert, hate crimes based on race or ethnicity may be more prevalent due to the visible physical differences which make individuals easier targets. She also noted that religious institutions, such as synagogues, are easily identifiable and therefore susceptible to hate crimes.
Although hate crime incidents have risen in 2017, overall violent crime has slightly decreased after peaking in 2015 and 2016. Schools have also witnessed a decline in violent crime in recent years, based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics.