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Bias-Motivated Acts Decline in Hart District

Posted: February 29, 2008 12:43 a.m.
Updated: May 1, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
Acts motivated by prejudice against another student because of race, religion or sexual orientation have decreased more than 50 percent in the Hart district compared to this time last year, according to a report presented by Hart District Diversity Coordinator Greg Lee.

There were 24 bias-motivated acts, which include fighting, name calling and threats made against someone because they are different, during the fall 2007 semester, compared to 52 reported during the fall 2006 semester in the William S. Hart Union High School District.

Lee presented his report to the board at the Hart district's last governing board meeting.

"We know that our administrators have been putting an emphasis on creating positive relationships between student groups," Lee said. "We're also trying to be more consistent about what the consequences are for these acts."

Bias-motivated acts differ from hate crimes, which must meet different criteria. A hate crime must be a criminal act as defined by the penal code and must be a premeditated act against someone in a certain group, Lee said.

The district has also focused more on reaching out to elementary schools in the area, which accounts for the huge decline in bias-motivated acts in district junior high schools, Lee said. There were only four bias-motivated acts reported in junior highs last fall, compared to 35 incidents reported in fall 2006.

Canyon High School has a program that reaches out to sixth graders in the Sulphur Spring School District; Rio Norte Junior High reaches out to third graders in the Saugus Union School District; and Valencia High School's STRIVE program sends students to visit every elementary district in Santa Clarita.

More bias-motivated incidents tend to occur in junior high, according to the report, as incoming students figure out the pecking order. By reaching out to students while they are still in elementary school, these incidents can be avoided, Lee said.

"In these elementary programs, they talk pretty pointedly about stereotypes and prejudices and how to embrace differences," Lee said.

Only one hate crime was reported in the Hart district last year, and none have been reported so far this year, according to Lee's report.

The hate crime reported last year was a battery incident that occurred at a Hart district high school. Lee said it was obvious that the incident had been motivated by hate.

"When the student was asked why he did it, he said he was a white supremacist," Lee said. "That made it pretty clear."

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