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Hate Crimes at School Rising
Hate crimes at school rising

22% increase from 2001-02 defies countywide trend

By Troy Anderson
Staff Writer

School-based hate crimes jumped 22 percent from 2001 to 2002, and are on track for a similar increase this year, even while total hate crimes in Los Angeles County hit a five-year low.

The 22nd annual hate crimes report, released Wednesday by the county Human Relations Commission, revealed there were 804 hate crimes in 2002, a 22 percent drop from the previous year. About half were violent in nature.

But the report found school-based hate crimes rose 22 percent from 79 to 96, including a 20 percent jump in school-based religious hate crimes.

"We're seeing a tremendous amount of violence that occurs on or near campuses," Executive Director Robin S. Toma said. "Over the past several months, there has been a real increase in the number of incidents that are racialized -- that are violent and require immediate intervention.

"We have found ourselves overwhelmed by the number of schools requesting our assistance right now."

In an effort to educate young people, the commission is sponsoring TV and movie theater advertisements with anti-hate and discrimination messages and a youth-oriented Web site, zerohour.com. The hate crime information hotline can be reached at (888) No-2-Hate.

Alan Kerstein, police chief for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said he believes the increase in school-based hate crimes is a result of better investigation, classification and reporting of hate crimes.

"It's an issue that all of us in the school district are concerned with," Kerstein said. "But to say this is a big problem in the district is unfair. I don't think parents in this district have to worry about hate crimes."

But county Supervisor Don Knabe said he is aware of a lot of ethnic tensions at various school districts.

"There are changing demographics throughout the county," Knabe said. "Some of it is related to 9-11, but a lot of it is not, unfortunately."

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the county saw an unprecedented spike in the number of hate crimes targeting people perceived to be Muslim or Middle Eastern and the resulting anxiety persisted well into 2002.

Despite a continued atmosphere of suspicion and hostility, anti-Middle Eastern and Muslim crimes related to the terrorist attacks dropped from 188 in 2001 to 17 in 2002, half of which were violent.

The largest category of hate crimes last year -- 418 cases -- was motivated by the race, ethnicity or national origin of the victim. About 16 percent of these racial hate crimes occurred in schools, which saw a 63 percent increase, from 40 to 65.

For the second consecutive year, sexual orientation-based hate crimes increased 7 percent, from 222 to 238, including a 14 percent climb in the number of crimes targeting gay men. There were 16 anti-transgender hate crimes, 88 percent of which involved violence.

The crimes that took place in 2002 included three murders and five attempted murders, the majority of which took place at Los Angeles International Airport on July 4th when an Egyptian immigrant fired at employees and passengers at the Israeli El-Al Airlines ticket counter.

African-Americans again were the most frequent targets of racial hate crimes, and were more than five times as likely to be victimized as the general population.

Religious hate crimes dropped 8 percent from 129 to 119, with Jewish people constituting 66 percent of these cases.

Nationally, the number of anti-Semitic incidents increased 8 percent, from 1,432 in 2001 to 1,559 in 2002. While the Southern California area did not experience a dramatic change, the only fatal anti-Semitic incident occurred during the July 4th shooting at LAX.

Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985 troy.anderson@dailynews.com

— Troy Anderson
LosAngeles Daily New.com


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