The most recent data compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed a 5 percent annual increase in the number of hate crimes, which are defined by the FBI as “a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias.” Notably, almost 10 percent of 6,120 hate crimes in 2016 occurred at schools or universities.
The Anti-Defamation League recently published data showing an “alarming increase” in white supremacist propaganda on and near college campuses in 2017. White supremacist groups increased their use of flyers, stickers, banners and posters to spread their messages by more than 250 percent in 2017, according to the civil rights organization.
It is only a matter of time before white supremacist literature appears in our schools. What should be school officials’ response? The answer is highly dependent on the particular facts involved. Example scenarios set forth below focus on four commonplace student activities – drafting, posting, distributing and discussing flyers – and various legal standards that apply. Consult your school attorney should similar situations involving distribution of literature arise in your school district, as each district’s proper response depends on district policies as well as the law and precedent.