How Do We Prevent Hate Crimes?

The organization that administers Florida’s growing array of voucher programs — Step Up For Students — insists it doesn’t want private schools to discriminate against minority groups but it has no legal basis to deny those schools voucher money. ref 1

 These two Florida Statutes (1000.05 and 1003.42) apply to public schools. F.S. 1000.05 prohibits discrimination against certain minority groups and 1003.42(g) aims to teach people to voluntarily not discriminate against those groups. So in my mind, those two Florida statutes are inextricably linked. Based on the above Step Up For Students’ quote, these statutes do not apply to private schools receiving voucher money. I hope to convince you that those two statutes should apply to private schools that receive public money.  In addition, I will suggest some ways that I think both of the statutes need to be tweaked.

Florida Senator Darryl Rouson plans to introduce a bill in the next legislative session (which is in 2020) that will prohibit private schools that accept state money from discriminating against certain minority groups. I hope this strong statement in Florida Education Commissioner Corcoran’s letter  ​(​ ref ​2)​  means he will be supportive of Senator Rouson’s bill:

For my part, I intend to exercise all avenues afforded to me through Florida statutes and rules to investigate and act. I will swiftly, and to the limits of my office and resources, investigate and prosecute any individuals who threaten the equity and cultural sensitivity of the educational experience of our public schools.

The term “public schools” as was used in the Florida Education Commissioner’s letter has become blurred with the proliferation of taxpayer money funding charter schools and private schools. Going forward, we need to make clear which regulations only our neighborhood schools need to follow and which regulations apply to all schools receiving public money either directly or indirectly via the tax credit scheme.

Please urge your legislator and the Education Commissioner to pass legislation requiring that Florida Statutes 1000.05 and 1003.42 (g) apply to any school receiving public funds. Florida Statute 1000.05 says that discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, religion, or marital status against a student or an employee in the state system of public K-20 education is prohibited. Florida Statute 1003.42(g) requires the teaching of a course that will lead to an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society

In my view, this is crucial. The citizens of Florida should want every child to understand the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and examine what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society.

During an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) made the claim that President Trump emboldens racism and anti-Semitism with his rhetoric. Counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226 percent increase in hate crimes according to a recent news article. Ref 4 Correlation doesn’t mean causation. However, it seems common sense to believe that the speech of teachers and other authority figures can have an effect on the vulnerable.

The Florida Education Commissioner’s letter (which I quoted above) was in response to a principal that said he tried to stay neutral regarding the holocaust and slavery. A recent discussion within our Florida legislature regarding HB 741 (a bill called anti-Semitism) offered the hypothesis that denial of the holocaust was linked to hate crimes. People have been outraged that the principal (who was the antagonist in the Florida Education Commissioner’s letter) wanted to stay neutral about historical facts. Which parents were forcing this principal to feel he had to stay neutral about the holocaust and slavery?  ADL has seen this problem across the country and is developing a course to help teachers and administrators deal with this pressure from students and parents. Ref 3 If you were the principal and a parent came to you and said “I do not want my kid to attend a class that says the Holocaust is a historical fact”, how would you handle it? The principal (that made the news) could have used some of the ADL training when he was dealing with parents that didn’t want to expose their children to factual historical data.

How do you feel about hate crimes? What minority groups should be included in the hate crimes laws? Do you think certain minority groups need more protections than others? Religion was added to the list in Florida Statute 1000.05 in 2019 but in 2018 the statute read:

Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, or marital status against a student or an employee … is prohibited.

Do you think gender identity and sexual orientation should be added to the list?  If not, do you realize that sexual orientation and gender identity is no more a choice than race, ethnicity, or national origin? Do you realize these minority groups are the subject of hate crimes?  Do you think we can prevent these hate crimes?  If you think they can be prevented, then how? Is the teaching of tolerance a key element of prevention?

I hope sexual orientation and gender identity will be added to Florida Statute 1000.05 which is the Florida statute that prohibits discrimination against certain minority groups in Florida’s public schools. F.S. 1000.05 needs to apply to all schools receiving public funds. Of course since religion was added to Florida Statute 1000.05 in 2019, the statute should also say that this freedom of religion law shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that it can be used to harm another. For example, if your religion says that slavery is ok, it doesn’t mean you can enslave someone. Perhaps you find the slavery example silly but I don’t know all the ways people might be tempted to use religious freedom laws to harm others. Adding the language is a safeguard against future unintended consequences. Even the Bible offers us examples. Here is one:

Leviticus 24:13-14

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring the one who has cursed outside the camp, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head; then let all the congregation stone him.

As the recent news about the principal in Palm Beach County reveals, we need clearer guidelines on how f.s. 1003.42 (g) should be implemented. The Florida Commissioner of Education reveals there are no clear guidelines to implement 1003.42 (g) when he asks in his letter ref  2  ” Please provide a detailed report of all that the schools in Palm Beach County are doing to fulfill this obligation”

The course requirements of 1003.42(g) should be taught in civics or history class every year. Each age group can learn something new. Once the student knows WW2 and the Holocaust and other atrocities happened, people may question how many times it needs to be taught again. BUT the broader part of 1003.42(g) is the teaching of what led to the Holocaust and how people were complacent. The course work should target a certain age group (Primary, Intermediate, Middle School, etc.) and the teacher should take into consideration the ages, reading level, and emotional maturity of the students. ref 5

Based on the next to the last paragraph of Corocran’s letter ref 2  , I would expect him to support Senator Rouson’s bill prohibiting private schools that accept state money from discriminating against people because of sexual orientation or gender identity. But would I be disappointed? Please contact the commissioner and all your representatives and ask them to

  1. Support legislation that will add sexual orientation and gender identity to f.s. 1000.05
  2. Support legislation that will make it clear that Florida Statutes 1003.42(g) and 1000.05 applies to all schools receiving public funds either directly or indirectly via the tax credit scheme.
  3. Add additional requirements that say elements of the course described at 1003.42(g) should be taught ever year.
  4. Add to Florida Statute 1000.05 wording that says that this freedom of religion law shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that it can be used to harm another.

Ref 1 https://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/editorials/os-op-florida-vouchers-disciminate-gay-students-20190706-3qbgvqro6jcd7of6hf4c4b3eim-story.html

Ref  2 http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/35/urlt/HolocaustLetter-July2019.pdf

Ref 3 https://www.adl.org/blog/empowering-educators-to-discuss-hard-topics

Ref 4 https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/03/22/trumps-rhetoric-does-inspire-more-hate-crimes/

Ref 5 http://www.flholocausteducationtaskforce.org/classroom-resources/

HB 741 https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00741

f.s. 1003.42 (g) http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?mode=View%20Statutes&SubMenu=1&App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=1003.42&URL=1000-1099/1003/Sections/1003.42.html

f.s.1000.05 http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?mode=View%20Statutes&SubMenu=1&App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=1000.05&URL=1000-1099/1000/Sections/1000.05.html

Florida’s Tax Credit Scheme allows some businesses to divert dollar for dollar their tax liability money to a private school. Read more:  https://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/2019/02/15/gov-ron-desantis-reveals-plan-to-eliminate-scholarship-wait-list/

Where I found the stoning quote: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Stoning