Amendment to HR 609, the College Access and Opportunity Act

Media 07.20.05

Recipient: Education and the Workforce Staff

Dear Representative:

The undersigned civil rights, religious, and civic organizations urge you to support Rep. Bobby Scott’s amendment to H.R. 609, the College Access and Opportunity Act, to make the categories of hate crimes collected by the Department of Education uniform with those collected by the Department of Justice. The Scott Amendment is simple and straightforward – it would merely make the Department of Education’s hate crime categories identical to the crime categories that have been collected by the FBI under the Hate Crime Statistics Act since 1991.

Every year, thousands of students are the victims of bias-motivated slurs, vandalism, threats, and physical assaults on college campuses. In 1998, to increase awareness of hate violence on college campuses, Congress enacted an amendment to the Higher Education Act (HEA) requiring all colleges and universities to collect and report hate crime statistics to the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) of the Department of Education. Currently, colleges must report only those crimes involving bodily injury in which the victim was targeted because of his/her race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or disability. Unfortunately, the Department of Education’s current hate crime statistics reflect very substantial underreporting Even worse, the limited available data directly conflicts with campus hate crime information collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under the 1990 Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA).

For example:

  • In 2003, the FBI recorded 22 hate incidents at Brown University. OPE reported one.

  • At the University of Maryland, College Park, the FBI reported 13 incidents in 2003 alone. OPE reported only four in 2001, 2002, and 2003 combined.

  • In 2003, the FBI recorded eight hate crimes at the Northwestern University, eight at Ohio State University, six at the University of Connecticut, and five at Cornell. None of these crimes were reported by OPE.
Limitations of the OPE data currently gathered under HEA result, in large part, from discrepancies between the FBI definition of a hate crime and the HEA definition. The FBI definition includes larceny/theft, intimidation, simple assault, and destruction/damage/vandalism – all categories currently omitted by the Department of Education. The omission of these crime categories has resulted in significant gaps in OPE data, substantial inconsistencies between FBI and OPE statistics, and confusion for parents and students trying to obtain a more accurate sense of campus safety. Uniform hate crime data collection efforts would also enable campus police to utilize the excellent FBI hate crime training materials already in use across the country.

In 2003, the FBI reported almost 7,500 hate crimes, reported by almost 12,000 law enforcement agencies across the country The HCSA has proved to be a powerful mechanism to confront violent bigotry against individuals on the basis of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin. Importantly, the HCSA has also increased public awareness of the problem and sparked critical improvements in the local response of the criminal justice system to hate violence.

We urge you to support the Scott Amendment to revise the Department of Education hate crime categories to make them uniform with those collected by the Department of Justice.


Americans for Democratic Action
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
American Association of University Women
American Jewish Committee
American Psychological Association
Anti-Defamation League
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
Human Rights Campaign
The Interfaith Alliance
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)
National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC)
National Association for Multicultural Education
National Coalition for the Homeless
National Council of Jewish Women
National Urban League
Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA)
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
Rock the Vote
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI)
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United States Student Association
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries (UCC)