HEA Reauthorization

Categories: Advocacy Letter

Recipient: Secretary of Education Rod Paige

The Honorable Rod Paige
Secretary of Education
U. S. Department of Education
FB6, Room 7W301
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202

ATTENTION: HEA Reauthorization

Dear Secretary Paige:

As organizations deeply concerned with the national problem of hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents, especially on college campuses, we submit the following suggestions for strengthening the Higher Education Act (HEA). We very much appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments.

We strongly believe that hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents on college campuses can only be addressed if campus communities become knowledgeable about the scope and seriousness of the problem. Consistent and accurate reporting of hate crimes on campus is an essential tool for hate crimes prevention. Currently, colleges and universities are required to report their crime statistics – including hate crime data – to the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) of the U.S. Department of Education, which then makes the data available online. The OPE Campus Security Statistics Website is an extremely useful public awareness tool to help potential college students and their parents research criminal offenses on college campuses.

Since 1991, the FBI has also collected national data on bias-motivated crimes, under the Hate Crime Statistics Act (28 U.S.C 534). Since the Department of Education uses the same definition of hate crimes as developed by the FBI, there should not be wide differences in the number of hate crimes reported by colleges and universities to the Department of Education and the FBI. Yet, a comparison between the FBI’s annual report, “Hate Crime Statistics 2001,” and the hate crimes statistics available online through the 2001 OPE Campus Security Statistics Website reveals striking discrepancies. Consider just the following examples:



  • Salem State College in Massachusetts reported 10 hate crimes to the FBI, but reported zero hate crimes to the U.S. Department of Education.


  • Western Illinois University reported 11 hate crimes to the FBI, but only one hate crime incident to the U.S. Department of Education.


  • University of Connecticut reported 11 hate crimes to the FBI, but reported zero hate crimes to the U.S. Department of Education.


This widespread underreporting of hate crimes to the Department of Education undermines national efforts to address intergroup tensions on campuses and promote a campus climate that will encourage student safety and achievement. Furthermore, the statistics reported by the Department of Education could mistakenly lead parents and students to believe that some colleges and universities either do not have a hate crime problem or do not take the problem of hate violence on campus as seriously as they should. We urge the Department to include proposals to address the discrepancies between hate crime reporting to OPE and the FBI and provide incentives, training opportunities for campus law enforcement officials and administrators, and reporting enforcement measures designed to ensure accurate reporting of bias-motivated incidents on campus.

In addition, we recommend that resources be made available for campus anti-bias training programs in an effort to promote effective implementation of prevention strategies and the adoption of anti-harassment guidelines such as those outlined in the extremely useful Department of Education document, Protecting Students from Harassment and Hate Crimes. The Higher Education Act should provide the resources necessary to identify and promote awareness of best practices, prevention strategies, and innovative programs to prevent hate crimes on college and university campuses across the nation.

We urge you to consider these proposals as the Department prepares its proposals for amending and extending the Higher Education Act.

Sincerely,

American Association of University Women
American Jewish Committee
American Psychological Association
Americans for Democratic Action
Anti-Defamation League
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Center for Women Policy Studies
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Communications Workers of America
The Episcopal Church, USA
Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC)
Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America
Human Rights Campaign
Japanese American Citizens League
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF)
NA’AMAT USA
National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC)
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME)
National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ)
National Congress of American Indians
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of La Raza
National Education Association
National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA)
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Organization for Women
National PTA
NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund
Organization of Chinese Americans
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
People For the American Way
Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force (SMART)
The Interfaith Alliance
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United States Student Association
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Women of Reform Judaism