Identification of Prohibited Conduct  


  1. BIAS INCIDENT means any act, including conduct or speech directed at or which  occurs to a person or property because of actual or perceived race, religion,  ethnicity, disability, gender ID, color, national origin, homelessness, or sexual  orientation. A bias incident may or may not be a criminal act.  
  2. BIAS INDICATORS are objective facts and circumstances, which suggest that an  action was motivated in whole or in part by a particular type of bias.  iii. BIAS MOTIVES recognized by Massachusetts law as causing hate crimes include  prejudice based on race, religion, ethnicity, disability, gender ID, color, national  origin, homelessness, and sexual orientation.  
  3. CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS involve interfering by threats, intimidation, or  coercion, with someone’s enjoyment of constitutional or statutory rights. Rights  protected against interference include non-discrimination in access to advantages  and privileges of a public school education. The term “civil rights violation” also  covers bias-related and sexual harassment and bias crimes, so the term is applied  generically to any civil or criminal law infractions.  
  4. DISCRlMINATION consists of actions taken against another or others which treat  them unequally because of age, gender ID, sex, race, color, national origin, homelessness, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, special need,  proficiency in the English language or a foreign language, or prior academic achievement.
  5. HARASSMENT consists of unwelcome verbal, written or physical conduct  targeting specific person(s), which is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive  to create an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, or offensive school environment, or  substantially interfere with the progress of a student’s education. 
  6. BIAS-RELATED HARASSMENT will present bias indicators, most  commonly epithets: name-calling derogatory to a particular racial,  religious, or sexual orientation group;
  7. SEXUAL HARASSMENT covers instances of physical or verbal conduct of  a sexual nature, not limited to but including sexual advances, which foster  a hostile educational environment for the victim.
  8. HATE CRIMES include any criminal acts to which recognized types of bias  motives are an evident contributing factor. Criminal bias-motivated conduct  entails, at a minimum, threats. Criminal conduct includes acts putting someone in  fear of immediate physical harm (assaults), and actual physical violence (assault  and battery), and grows most serious if a victim suffers any bodily injury.  Repeated threatening or menacing actions like following someone can amount to  the crime of stalking.
  9. HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT exists when a student has been or is subjected to  threats, intimidation, or coercion by another (or others) or is reasonably in fear for  his or her safety. Whether a school environment has become hostile must be  evaluated based on the totality of the circumstances. Repeated instances of bias related and sexual harassment create a hostile environment for the victim. A  single act of harassment can also create a hostile or intimidating environment if  sufficiently severe. A hostile environment does not necessarily entail that a  student exhibits quantifiable harm, such as a drop in grades.
  10. STALKING, a felony, consists of intentional conduct involving 1) 2 or more acts  directed at a specific person, 2) which would cause an average person substantial  distress, 3) where the perpetrator has made threats causing the targeted person fear  of death or injury.  

Common Bias Indicators

  1. Bias-related oral comments or epithets  
  2. Bias-related markings, drawings, or graffiti
  3. Use of bias-related symbols
  4. No clear economic motive for an assault and battery
  5. Crime involving disproportionate cruelty or brutality
  6. Offender history of crimes with similar m.o. and victims of the same  group  

See G.L. 22C, Sec. 33; 501 CMR 4.04 (1) (the Hate Crimes Reporting Act, Classification  Criteria).

Examples of Civil Rights Violations and Bias Incidents:  

  1. Unwelcome verbal, written, or physical conduct directed at the characteristics of a  person’s race or color, such as nicknames emphasizing stereotypes, racial slurs,  comments on manner of speaking, and negative references to racial customs  (racial and color harassment).  
  2. Unwelcome verbal, written, or physical conduct, directed at the characteristics of  a person’s religion, such as derogatory comments regarding surnames, religious  tradition, or religious clothing, or religious slurs, or graffiti. (religious  harassment).
  3. Conduct directed at the characteristics of a person’s national origin, such as  negative comments regarding surnames, manner of speaking, customs, language,  or ethnic slurs (national origin harassment).
  4. Conduct directed at the characteristics of a person’s sexual orientation–actual,  perceived, or asserted–such as negative name calling and imitating mannerisms  (sexual orientation harassment).  
  5. Conduct directed at the characteristics of a person’s disabling condition, such as  imitating manner of speech or movement, or interference with necessary  equipment (disability harassment).  
  6. Physical conduct putting someone in fear of imminent harm, coupled with name calling of a bigoted nature (crime of assault).
  7. Repeated, purposeful following of someone, coupled with evident bias against the  victim’s actual or perceived group status (civil rights violation or crime of  stalking).
  8. Painting swastikas on walls or other public or private property (crime of  vandalism).
  9. Hitting someone because of their actual or perceived group status (crime of  battery).

Scope of Information  

This information applies to bias crimes, civil rights violations, bias incidents, and bias related harassment occurring on school premises or property, or in the course of school sponsored activities, including those outside of school if there is a detrimental effect on  the school or educational climate.  

Return to the Civil Rights and Non-Discrimination Notice Handbook