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'Hate Crimes' Are Called 'Serious Problem' in L.A.

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More than one-third of the public schools in Los Angeles County responding to a recent survey reported incidents reflecting racial hatred among students, leading school officials there to conclude they have "a serious problem" with so-called hate crimes.

The survey, conducted last spring by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations and the Los Angeles County Office of Education, is described by civil-rights groups as the first such in-depth look at hate-related incidents among K-12 students in a large metropolitan area.

Administrators at all 1,570 public elementary and high schools in the county, which includes the Los Angeles Unified School District, were asked last March if their schools had experienced hate crimes or hate-related incidents during the 1988-89 school year.

Of the 956 schools that responded, 354, or 37 percent, reported a total of 2,256 incidents of hate crime, according to a report issued by the human- relations commission last month.

"Just the idea that you would have bigotry-related incidents in more than a third of the schools seemed to us to be a serious problem," Eugene S. Mornell, executive director of the commission, said last week.

The two agencies plan to hold a conference next January to discuss ways to prevent hate crime.

The survey found that:

Junior high schools and middle schools were somewhat more likely to be the site of such incidents than were high schools. Elementary schools had the lowest reported rate of incidents.

Racial slurs and name calling were the most prevalent type of reported hostility, followed by physical violence and graffiti.

Most victims of hate crimes were Latino. They accounted for 46.7 percent of the 1988 enrollment and 30 percent of the victims, with 651 incidents directed against them.

But the largest number of schools, 168, reported incidents against black students, who were disproportionately likely to be victims of hate crime. Accounting for just 13.8 percent of the county enrollment, blacks were victims of about 29 percent of the individual incidents.

Similarly, Asians and Pacific Islanders, who make up 8.6 percent of the enrollment, accounted for 14.5 percent of the victims.

Nearly one-third of all anti-Latino incidents and one-half of all anti-Asian incidents were attributed to anti-immigrant sentiment among students.

Homosexual students also were at substantial risk, being victimized in 65 incidents, despite their relative invisibility.

Students associated with white-supremacist groups committed a relatively low percentage of hate crimes at schools--about 4.5 percent--but schools with such groups on campus were almost three times more likely than others to report hate crimes. The study concludes that the presence of such groups on campus may signal or contribute to a more intolerant environment.

Students who victimized school employees were most likely to be suspended; students who victimized other students were most likely to be counseled and returned to class.

Schools that did not report hate crime were less likely to use curricular materials that teach about prejudice. The report concludes that schools adopt such materials after incidents occur, rather than as a preventive measure.

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