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After concerns, guidance issued to MA schools concerning legal obligations on hate and bias

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BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office today issued guidance to school officials about their legal obligations to prevent and address hate and bias incidents at their educational institutions. At a time of heightened strain in school communities, the AG’s Office is providing guidance and resources to help schools respond properly if a hate incident occurs.

The AG’s Guidance on Schools’ Legal Obligations to Prevent and Address Hate and Bias Incidents, which was sent today to school superintendents, charter school leaders, and school administrators, describes how schools must respond to hate and bias incidents involving students and what proactive steps schools must take to prevent such incidents. It also highlights several best practices that schools should consider for preventing and responding to hate incidents. The AG’s Office is also offering a directory of relevant training and other resources.

“I commend our school leaders, teachers, and staff across the state who have been on the front lines of providing essential educational and social-emotional services during this time of uncertainty and distress amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and as we’re all grappling with racial injustice and its negative effects on individuals and society as whole,” said AG Healey. “We want to make sure schools have the information and support they need to address and prevent incidents of hate and bias and ensure that every student can learn in a nurturing and welcoming environment, free from bullying and harassment.”

The AG’s Office has recently engaged with school administrators, teachers, staff, parents, students, and community members who are concerned about hate incidents in the state’s elementary and secondary schools and who are re-examining the role of schools in preventing and addressing these incidents. Student misconduct that involves hate, bias, or prejudice can have a devastating impact on victims and can severely disrupt the school environment. The AG’s Guidance is designed to assist schools in their continuing efforts to combat hate and foster a safe, supportive, and inclusive educational environment, consistent with their obligations under state law.

“Schools must take prompt and effective action to address hate incidents involving students. When a school receives notice of an alleged hate incident, it has a legal responsibility to investigate and to respond to any bullying or harassment that is found to have occurred. Because hate incidents may involve bullying, harassment, or both bullying and harassment, schools must ensure that their response complies with both the Anti-Bullying Law and the Anti-Discrimination Act.”

The AG’s Guidance, describes schools’ obligations to prevent and respond to hate and bias incidents under Massachusetts’s anti-bullying and anti-discrimination laws; details required, affirmative steps to help create a positive school climate and prevent these incidents; and provides examples of best practices to implement education, prevention, and remediation measures.

AGOGuidanceonHateandBiasIncidentsinSchools
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