Hate Crimes: Silence Is Not An Option

BGCA has sunset the Year of the Teen Director’s App to consolidate practices, tips, and all other content in the YD Toolbox app and here on the Club Experience Blog. We will be featuring some of the articles that appeared in the app here (with updates!), as well as content just for staff who work with teens. Just search for the tag “teens” to find them all!

As Boys & Girls Club professionals, we are mandated by our organizational constitution to be non-partisan in all of our instruction. When our nation’s kids and teens are experiencing or participating in speech or acts based in hate or bias, it is not a partisan issue. It is a safety issue.

As Club professionals, silence is not an option.

Our Movement has a long legacy of standing in the gap for those who are marginalized, and it is our organization’s mission to serve those who need us most. Hate crimes are on the rise in recent years, and you may have seen reports of targeted harassment and intimidation against members of minority communities, and of the October 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the worst attack against the Jewish community in American history. These are some of the youth who need us most. It is imperative that we know how to respond to and prevent hate crimes and bias incidents in our Clubs and communities.

What are hate crimes?

A hate crime is the victimization of an individual based on that individual’s actual or perceived race, religion, national origin, ethnic identification, gender, sexual orientation, or dis/ability status. Hate crimes can occur anywhere: in schools and on campuses, the workplace, public places, or the home. Those who commit these acts come from all social/economic backgrounds and represent different age groups. Hate crimes may include acts such as :

  • Physical assaults, with or without weapons
  • Verbal or online harassment
  • Vandalism
  • Robbery
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Attacks on homes or places of worship

While we must foster respect for differing opinions, we must interrupt biased speech, discrimination, intimidation, harassment and bullying – and certainly hate speech and violence. Teaching young people how to distinguish and establish these boundaries is important in developing their character and citizenship. They also need to know their rights and responsibilities to safety in their schools, Clubs, homes and communities.

To learn more about how various kinds of trauma, including bullying, community violence, and mass violence affect children, visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

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What do we do?

Responding to Hate and Bias at School, a Teaching Tolerance publication, is an excellent free resource for school administrators, teachers, and counselors that can be easily translated for youth development professionals and our work in Boys & Girls Clubs. It includes information on assessing the climate before an incident occurs, key points when responding to a crisis, and what to do long-term to prevent another crisis.

We must also educate the youth in our Clubs and our communities about hate crimes and bias as a prevention mechanism. Don’t shy away from having conversations with your youth. Read this ClubX Blog post for tips on how to talk with youth about traumatic community events. Get lesson plans for teaching social justice and reinforcing social-emotional learning skills on topics such as bias, race and ethnicity, and religion from Teaching Tolerance. Don’t be afraid to start young- find strategies for elementary-age students here.

BGCA has resources on addressing bullying and creating a Positive Club Climate, including a new set of online trainings. Boys & Girls Club staff can access them all at bgca.net. There, staff can also find the Serving LGTBQ Youth tookit and the Be A Star Bullying Prevention Program.

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It is important to remember that hate crimes are against the law.

Crime victims should never cope with their experiences alone. If an incident or its consequences require immediate assistance, call 911. For non-emergencies, there are a number of organizations and hotlines available for hate crime, hate speech, and bias incident reporting and support, including:

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Remember that Club professionals are mandated to report any suspected abuse of a minor, including sexual abuse, to state child protective services. Call the Child Safety Hotline for Clubs at 1-866-607-SAFE for assistance.

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