TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Division on Civil Rights Director Rachel Wainer Apter announced today that the State’s Interagency Task Force to Combat Youth Bias will host a series of four community listening sessions this month focused on the impact of youth bias on communities throughout the state. The Task Force was established by Executive Order in August 2019 following a report showing an increase in bias crimes involving young people and is scheduled to issue a report on its findings and recommendations for action no later than February 2020.
The four listening sessions are scheduled for:
- November 13 at Chabad House in New Brunswick, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
- November 20 at Donovan Catholic High School in Toms River,
from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
- November 21 at John Wesley United Methodist Church in Bridgeton,
from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
- November 25 at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Hackensack,
from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The four community listening sessions are designed to give New Jersey residents a voice on the problem of bias activity among New Jersey’s youth, and to aid the Task Force in determining how the State can best combat bias and prevent acts of hate and intolerance among New Jersey children, students, and young adults.
The Governor’s Office created the Task Force earlier this year after data compiled by the New Jersey State Police and analyzed by the Division on Civil Rights showed a “rising tide of hate” in New Jersey. The report noted there were 569 reported bias incidents in New Jersey in 2018 – a number higher than in any year since 2011.
Comparing the past two years, the report also chronicled a stark increase in youth participation in bias offenses.
In 2017, the data showed, 29.6 percent of all known bias offenders in New Jersey were minors.
In 2018, the percentage of known bias offenders who were minors was more than 46 percent. Troublingly, more than a quarter of the reported bias incidents in 2018 occurred at institutions of higher education, and nearly half of the offenders in those incidents were minors.
“If we can reach New Jersey’s young people with positive messages about diversity -- as our office is committed to doing every day -- we can shape a future in which our differences are not only tolerated, but celebrated,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We’re not there yet. We clearly have work to do. And coming together to hear from each other is an important step.”
“The report we released in August reflects a rising tide of hate, bias, persistent othering and even dehumanization across the country and across our state, especially among students and young adults,” said DCR Director Wainer Apter, who serves as Chairperson of the Interagency Task Force.
“While there is debate about the precise cause of this rise, we know that social media, organized hate groups and political rhetoric all play a role,” Director Wainer Apter said. “The Task Force is holding these listening sessions to hear from students and parents who have been impacted by bias, and to hear what has been successful from those working directly with children to help them recognize our mutual humanity. What we learn during these sessions will inform the recommendations we make in our report, so we encourage all who have been impacted by bias to come speak at a session or submit a written comment on our website.”
Residents who would like to speak at one of the listening sessions, or simply attend, are encouraged to register online by visiting https://www.nj.gov/oag/dcr/listening.html.
Residents who would like to submit written comments instead of attending a listening session may do so at the same website, or by submitting a comment to email@example.com.
State agencies represented on the Interagency Task Force include the Department of Education, the Department of Children and Families, the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, and five agencies within the Department of Law & Public Safety: the Division on Civil Rights, the New Jersey State Police, the Division of Criminal Justice, the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, and the Juvenile Justice Commission.
Upon completion of its work, the Task Force will provide advice and recommendations to the Offices of the Governor and the Attorney General, and to other state agencies, on strategies and actions to reduce incidents of youth bias and hate.