Skip to main content

Atlantic North Region

A map of the Atlantic North CRS region

Boston Regional Office

408 Atlantic Ave
Suite 222
Boston, MA 02110

T: 617.424.5715
F: 617.424.5727

Erie Field Office

Erie Federal Courthouse
17 S. Park Row
Erie, PA 16501

New York Regional Office

26 Federal Plaza
Suite 36-118
New York, NY 10278

T: 212.264.0700

Philadelphia Regional Office

200 Chestnut Street
Suite 208
Philadelphia, PA 19106

T: 215.597.2344
F: 215.597.9148


Portland Field Office

Puerto Rico Field Office

U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico
Torre Chardón, Suite 1201
350 Carlos Chardón Street
San Juan, PR 00918

Washington, D.C., National Headquarters 

145 N Street, NE
Suite 5E.300
Washington, D.C. 20530

T: 202.305.2935

Atlantic North Region Case Highlights

In January 2020, CRS facilitated a School-Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (School-SPIRIT) program at a high school in in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, to address concerns of bias-based incidents related to race at the school.

The Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General and an additional government official requested CRS services after an incident at the high school in February 2019, when a video circulated on social media of a white school police officer punching and pulling the hair of a Black female student. Two students were allegedly involved in a fight when the school police officer intervened. At least four students were expelled following the incident. Community members held a protest at the school during a school board meeting, calling for the officer to be fired for the way he restrained the student. District officials and parents in the area also reported concerns about racial slurs used by white students and racial tensions between Black and white students in the school. In November 2019, CRS convened school and government officials to plan a School-SPIRIT program. On the morning of the program, CRS trained 10 individuals from state and federal agencies as facilitators. The two-hour facilitation training provided volunteer facilitators with an overview of the program and relevant facilitation training topics, including the program logistics and goals, facilitator roles, and active listening techniques.

A diverse group of approximately 80 student leaders from grades nine through 12 participated in the SPIRIT program. In small breakout groups, student leaders identified inequitable security procedure enforcement as their top concern, including a lack of training for security staff. In addition, many students felt that school policies and procedures were disparately enforced against Black and Latino students. Working together, reorganized into small groups, the students developed potential solutions to address the issues, such as cultural and diversity training for security staff and updates to school policies to address procedures considered to be unfair.

At the conclusion of the program, participants created a SPIRIT council composed of a diverse group of student volunteers to implement some of the solutions developed during the program. The school principal and SPIRIT council members agreed to create an action plan to address the student-raised concerns.

In the aftermath of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in October 2018, federal and law enforcement officials, community leaders, and faith leaders in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, asked CRS to provide continued services to help calm tensions and address the community’s fears. A group of federal agencies in the greater Pittsburgh area had identified a need to respond to hate crimes and learn how to prevent future hate crimes from occurring. CRS led the interagency initiative to increase the federal agencies’ capacity to prevent and respond to hate crimes in Pittsburgh by forming a working group comprised of local federal employees.

The working group expanded from six to more than 25 members, including representatives from seven federal agencies, the city of Pittsburgh, and a local university. The working group met frequently to discuss how to leverage existing community resources to prevent and respond to hate crimes and how to increase the members’ understanding of hate crimes and capacity to respond to them.

The group planned and coordinated a daylong event on October 30, 2019, at Carnegie Mellon University, designed to facilitate conversations about hate crimes and hate crimes prevention among students, faith leaders, educators, and community advocates. CRS provided facilitation training to approximately 20 volunteers, including EEOC officers, educators, nonprofit leaders, faith-based leaders, and social workers, who led “World Café” dialogues during the event.

The “Forum on Hate Crimes, Hate vs. Understanding: Start the Conversation” was also part of the university’s celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) history month. The first panel included speakers from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Carnegie Mellon University Police. Participants learned how to address and prevent hate crimes and workplace violence and discrimination, as well as how to work with LGBTQ communities and emerging community groups, including the city’s growing Burmese, Chinese, and Korean communities. After the morning panel, two national LGBTQ advocates spoke about the 10th anniversary of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA) of 2009. One expert included Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard. She described her efforts to ensure passage of the HCPA, and the Matthew Shepard Foundation’s accomplishments in ensuring safety, visibility, and inclusiveness of the LGBTQ community since the enactment of the HCPA. An afternoon panel, “Preventing Hate Crimes and Law Enforcement” featured the Charlottesville, Virginia, chief of police, a Carnegie Mellon alumna. Finally, participants engaged in structured conversation on addressing issues that lead to hate crimes in afternoon “World Café” dialogues.

In March 2020, CRS facilitated a Protecting Places of Worship (PPOW) forum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to address local religious communities’ concerns regarding a national increase in religiously motivated hate crimes. Many Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities across the United States experienced fear after recent anti-Semitic events, including the October 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Chabad-Lubavitch of Poway synagogue shooting outside San Diego, California, in April 2019.

In the fall of 2019, based on a long-standing relationship with CRS, government officials contacted CRS to request a PPOW forum. CRS worked with the community to form an interfaith planning group that included local Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faith leaders and advocates as well as government leaders, including officials from the commission and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (USAO-MDPA). CRS convened meetings of the planning group in January and February 2020 to help coordinate the forum, which also included representatives from the local community and education. Leaders of local religious organizations and members of the community in the working group were interested in learning more about creating a safe and secure environment for faith-based communities, information on how to report hate and bias incidents, and resources to help faith-based communities before and after hate and bias incidents.

Approximately 80 people attended the forum, which was hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg and held at the Jewish Community Center in Harrisburg. Panelists included representatives of Harrisburg’s Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, and Latino communities, and government agencies, including the USAO-MDPA, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security Office of Infrastructure Protection, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Pennsylvania State Police, and Harrisburg Police Department.

Panelists shared information about religion-based hate crimes, federal and state hate crimes laws, and how to conduct threat assessments and protect places of worship from bias incidents and hate crimes. The forum also fostered networking and community outreach and provided resources to participants, such as examples of security plans and community responses.

CRS piloted the newly developed Facilitating Meetings Around Community Conflict (FMACC) training program in February 2020 for Loudoun County, Virginia, community leaders. Through FMACC, CRS teaches community leaders the fundamentals of successfully facilitating meetings where community tension requires difficult conversations, including tools, helpful tips, and resources to prepare for, conduct, and follow up after the meetings.

In the fall of 2019, the Loudoun County branch of the NAACP requested CRS services to address community concerns about perceived racial bias in history classes in local schools and procedures for selection to attend the Academies of Loudoun, a public Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-focused high school, as well as incidents of Ku Klux Klan flyers anonymously distributed in communities in the county. Community members expressed concerns about the language used in public school textbooks and the perceived racial undertones of the curriculum’s interpretation of historical events. At the same time, reports circulated of the Ku Klux Klan’s active pursuit of members in some parts of the country. Given the broad range of community needs, in consultation with CRS, the Loudoun County NAACP branch requested that CRS conduct the FMACC training for a group of county community leaders to help build capacity across local organizations to address these concerns.

CRS conducted the program for 16 participants, including local religious leaders, educators, and community leaders. The training program uses skill-building exercises and scenarios to help participants practice the skills needed to successfully facilitate dialogues and encourage positive change in their community. The training also provides the opportunity for these leaders to share their knowledge related to facilitating groups, managing conflict, and exercising community leadership and discusses how they can collaborate in their communities to address sources of conflict and tension.

All participants agreed that the training was valuable and provided additional tools for tackling issues of conflict in their communities. CRS is currently modifying the program so it can be conducted virtually, as well as in person, beginning in early Fiscal Year 2022.

In January 2020, CRS facilitated a School-Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (School-SPIRIT) program at a high school in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania to address tensions from alleged racially motivated bullying and subsequent racial conflict at the school. CRS previously facilitated a School-SPIRIT at the high school in 2017 to address similar concerns of alleged harassment and discrimination due to race.

In October 2019, CRS responded to a request from the high school principal after the parents of several Black students filed a complaint with a state agency about the reported use of racial slurs against Black and South Asian students and subsequent racial tension at the school. Members of the Mechanicsburg Black community perceived the slurs as bias-based incidents. Additionally, Black parents raised concerns during several school board meetings regarding bullying of Black students at the high school. CVHS officials also cited numerous incidents of white students using racial slurs against Black students.

Earlier, in the spring of 2019, the school district had formed an inclusion committee that identified the School-SPIRIT program as a critical step to help address the racial tensions in the district’s schools.

CRS convened school district and government officials from the school district and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General to form a group to develop the program. The planning group consisted of SPIRIT council members from the 2017 School-SPIRIT, as well as vice principals and school counselors.

In January 2020, more than 60 students participated in the CRS-facilitated program. Students who had participated in the 2017 School-SPIRIT not only co-facilitated the sessions with adult volunteers, but also added their own perspectives and experiences to the conversations. Hearing the student leaders’ concerns helped their peers feel more at ease raising issues. The students identified their top concerns as the use of stereotypes and slurs on the basis of race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity; a lack of response from the staff and administrators to the use of stereotypes and slurs; a lack of diversity among staff; and a lack of cultural understanding among the school’s staff.

In the program’s afternoon session, students identified possible solutions to the concerns they had raised, including changes to school procedures to better address bias incidents and encouraging all members of the school community to become active observers and report incidents to the school. At the end of the discussion, participants selected representatives to a SPIRIT council committed to implementing some of the proposed solutions. The council met several times before the COVID-19 pandemic began and plans to resume its work when it is safe to do so.

During the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, local school district officials contacted CRS to address a perceived rise in gang activity and associated racial tensions between Latino and African American students at a middle school in Riverdale, Maryland.

Following an initial CRS assessment and consultation, school administrators requested that CRS conduct a School-Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (School-SPIRIT) program at the middle school. School district leaders formed a planning group, comprised of administrators and the Student Government Association, to organize the program and identify potential participants.

Nearly 60 students gathered on October 24, 2018, for the daylong program, during which they worked together in small groups to identify areas of concerns and potential solutions to address them. Concerns voiced by the students included a culture of disrespect, gang violence, bullying, and a lack of space. School officials formed a SPIRIT Council, which met to discuss the identified solutions and explore their implementation.

In fall 2018, administrators at a local high school contacted CRS as racial conflict resurfaced in the school and community due to two high-profile incidents. The first incident involved allegations of racial epithets directed toward student athletes by a football coach. The second incident involved social media posts by students depicting pumpkins carved with a swastika and the letters “KKK.”

The previous school year, CRS had facilitated a School-Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (School-SPIRIT) program for 10th and 11th grade students to address original concerns regarding racial tensions. Following the fall 2018 incidents, administrators requested that CRS return to facilitate another School-SPIRIT program for the current 9th and 10th grade students. Administrators hoped the program would further address conflicts between African American and white students and address concerns regarding the recent bias-based incidents.

In October 2019, CRS trained seven external facilitators from a local university and a state government commission to conduct the School-SPIRIT program and deliver it to approximately 50 student participants.

At the conclusion of the program, the students identified core concerns about perceived racial bias in the school’s policies, code of conduct, and curriculum; the need for mental health awareness; and lack of support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) students as well as more explicit homophobia.

The school’s two SPIRIT Councils merged and continue to meet regularly to address the challenges and solutions identified by both groups. In March 2019, school administrators hosted the first SPIRIT Summit, a daylong event which brought together the high school’s SPIRIT Council with members of SPIRIT Councils from three other Pennsylvania high schools. The program featured a keynote from the First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (USAO-EDPA), workshops for the students, and opportunities for students to engage with representatives of state agencies. The high school’s SPIRIT Council plans to continue hosting the event annually.

After protesters left Charlottesville, Virginia, following the August 11-12, 2017 Unite the Right Rally, tensions in the city remained high. The protest highlighted conflicts in the city around race relations, police-community relations, and distrust between the community and city leaders.

After deploying to Charlottesville to monitor tensions during the rally, CRS remained in the city to address these issues and support city and community leaders in their efforts to reduce racial tensions, repair race relations, and re-establish the city's reputation as a unified and welcoming community.

CRS's initial crisis response and assessment indicated the need to hear from the community to help resolve the city's conflicts. At a public meeting later in August 2017, the first since the rally, more than 400 community members came to speak about their concerns in response to the conflict. CRS helped the city incorporate these concerns into the ongoing recovery strategy.

Based on CRS's recommendations, the city formed the “Community Leadership Council” composed of key city leaders and members of Charlottesville's diverse community. Within days, the planning group met for the first time with representatives from city agencies, the police and fire departments, and community members representing multiple races and religions, as well as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) communities, to strengthen bonds in the city through outreach and collaboration.

From late 2017 to early 2018, CRS continued working in Charlottesville and provided ongoing facilitation for the Community Leadership Council, including helping the group establish decision-making processes and drafting the council’s vision and mission statements. Additionally, CRS facilitated the group's regular meetings to ensure that the community remained on a successful re-building path.

The Community Leadership Council remains active in Charlottesville and continues its collaborative work to strengthen the community.

In June 2018, an online video showed a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, police officer deploying a stun gun on an unarmed African American man who appeared to be complying with police instructions. The perceived use of excessive force by the police officer elevated racial tensions in the community.

In July 2018, CRS worked with a local civil rights group to convene a meeting with community leaders, civil rights representatives, and faith leaders to provide input to the city on current police-community relations. CRS then facilitated a meeting with city and law enforcement officials and local civil rights leaders to discuss how to address the community’s concerns. These meetings prompted city officials and community leaders to form a planning team to address racial tension in the city and work to improve police-community relations.

From July through August 2018, CRS helped facilitate several meetings of the planning team, which led to the creation of a formal action plan. The plan included forming a working group composed of subject matter experts to craft policy regarding use of force by officers. As a step toward improving police-community relations, the planning team committed to holding a community event to solicit public input, facilitated by CRS-trained community members.

Through CRS’s efforts, the city of Lancaster established a framework for peacefully addressing racial tensions in the city while empowering community members to take an active role in improving their relationship with local law enforcement.

In April 2017, CRS services were requested by school officials in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, in response to community tension following allegations of disparate treatment of students based on race and color. These allegations stemmed from reports that school officials, instead of disciplining African American students for school infractions, were referring them to law enforcement where they faced the possibility of criminal charges. In addition, allegations that the schools were unresponsive to racial bullying concerns contributed to tensions among the local community, schools, and local law enforcement. As an example, CRS received reports that an 11-year-old African American student was being held in a juvenile detention facility after shoving two other students in reaction to an alleged bullying incident.

In May 2017, CRS met with school and law enforcement officials in separate meetings to identify ways in which both institutions could work together to address tensions within the community. These meetings also addressed the concerns about how the treatment of students in Puerto Rican schools contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline problem. As a result of the dialogues, law enforcement pledged the services of the internal Social Services Division to work with students and agreed to make an effort to recommend mediation, instead of legal proceedings, for future school cases, when practical.

In January 2019, the Sikh Coalition, a community-based organization that works to protect the rights of Sikhs and other religious minorities, requested CRS services due to perceptions of bias against the Sikh community by the local law enforcement officials regarding procedures for visitors to the Statue of Liberty National Monument, which includes Liberty Island and Ellis Island in New York. Practicing Sikhs carry kirpans, a small sword that is a Sikh article of faith. Security permits kirpans on Ellis Island, but not on Liberty Island, resulting at times in confusion.

CRS initially met with leaders from the Sikh Coalition and local law enforcement in July 2019 to facilitate a dialogue around the security procedures and the concerns of the Sikh community. At the meeting, local law enforcement officials explained that additional security at Liberty Island is necessary to ensure the safety of visitors and protect the monument. CRS shared information about its training for law enforcement on the customs and cultural aspects of the Sikh American community. The local law enforcement officials requested the training, entitled Engaging and Building Partnerships with Sikh Americans, for its officers as a way to improve relations with Sikh park visitors.

From October 29 through November 1, 2019, CRS facilitated eight sessions of the training program for approximately 100 security personnel who work to secure the ferry terminals in both New York and New Jersey that visitors take to reach Liberty Island. Evaluations after each session showed that 96% of respondents found the training to be a worthwhile use of time, with 100% agreeing that the training enhanced their knowledge of the Sikh community.

In the fall of 2019, a local government representative contacted CRS following a spate of alleged anti-Semitic incidents, including instances where a group of men reportedly targeted and assaulted several Jewish men and boys while crossing the street and where a man hit a rabbi with a paving stone. According to a New York Police Department (NYPD) report, anti-Semitic hate crimes across New York City increased by 30% from 2018 to 2019, while overall hate crimes increased by 19%.

CRS met with representatives from the local Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) field office and interfaith leaders to form a planning group to address the incidents and improve dialogue between law enforcement and the community. CRS had previously communicated with local Jewish community organizations following an earlier attack on a Jewish man in September 2019 and reached out to them again. These organizations also joined the planning group. The group agreed to plan a CRS Protecting Places of Worship (PPOW) forum. Additional participants joined the planning group, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, state human rights office, and local human rights office.

In January 2020, city leaders hosted the PPOW forum, which provided the local interfaith community with opportunities for collaboration as well as resources and information regarding securing their places of worship. The forum included a discussion on hate crime prosecutions and investigations, an overview of the FBI’s active shooter response training, and a panel on strategies for protecting places of worship. Panelists at the PPOW included representatives from the federal and state law enforcement. More than 100 community members, including members of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities, attended the forum.

Forum participants asked panelists about the recent series of reported anti-Semitic attacks and federal, county, and local law enforcement representatives advised that their offices were investigating the attacks as hate crimes. Prosecutors ultimately filed hate crime charges in one of the incidents.

In the summer of 2020, CRS facilitated a series of dialogues and provided consultation to city officials and community leaders in Geneva, New York to address racial tensions caused by perceptions of bias-based policing exacerbated by protests and counterprotests organized by local civil rights groups and law enforcement, respectively, and held in solidarity with national demonstrations and counterdemonstrations. CRS facilitated dialogues with city officials, law enforcement, and local community groups; provided contingency planning consultation for protests; and supported efforts to draft an antihate crimes resolution.

City officials initially contacted CRS in the spring of 2020 to request assistance with updating a previously approved memorandum of understanding between the city and local community leaders undertaken to improve police-community relations. Shortly thereafter, local community groups experienced an increase in race-related tensions due to the law enforcement-related death of George Floyd and other Black Americans and the resulting nationwide protests. Throughout June and July, local civil rights leaders held protests several times each week in solidarity with the nationwide demonstrations. City officials, law enforcement officials, and downtown business owners expressed concerns that the destruction that broke out in other cities also could occur locally. The city issued a press release advising residents to stay home, which further inflamed tensions in the Black community.

Throughout the summer of 2020, CRS met with representatives of the city government, the police department, and local civil rights leaders to discuss possible ways to address community conflict and identify solutions to strengthen relations between the city’s Black community and police. CRS facilitated four meetings with police officers to discuss the impact of the national protests and strategies for community engagement to address negative community perceptions of the police. Separate meetings with civil rights leaders gave them an opportunity to discuss possible solutions. As part of the ongoing efforts to quell racial tension, in June 2020, CRS also convened the city, police, and civil rights leaders to discuss best strategies to move the city beyond the tensions that fueled the protests earlier that month.

In early July, the local police union organized a rally in support of law enforcement at the same location as the ongoing civil rights protests. Civil rights leaders also planned a counterprotest to immediately follow the rally. City leaders feared that there would be clashes between the protestors. CRS met with city leaders to provide contingency planning in advance of the protests, which ultimately were peaceful.

Following the protests, CRS facilitated two dialogues, the first with civil rights leaders to identify concerns shared throughout the city’s Black communities, particularly across generational lines, and a second that also included the city manager and representatives from local community organizations. Civil rights leaders presented a series resolution to the city council in July on issues relating to police-community relations, the majority of which the council approved.

City leaders also requested CRS’s assistance with drafting an anti-hate resolution called for by city residents. CRS provided city leaders with sample drafts of anti-hate proclamations and resolutions from several states. The city council passed a resolution in early September 2020 pledging that the city would “foster a transparent environment of respect, dignity, and mutual understanding among diverse groups and individuals via education, dialogues, and community partners.”

CRS remains engaged with the community and is continuing to work with the city and community leaders to address conflicts and improve police-community relations.

In February 2020, a transgender woman was murdered in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, sparking outrage and fear in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) communities in Puerto Rico. A video posted online appeared to show the victim being threatened, harassed, and murdered. Several weeks later, two other transgender women were murdered in Humacao, Puerto Rico, exacerbating the community’s concerns. CRS met with local LGBTQ stakeholders, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) coordinator for civil rights in San Juan and representatives from a coalition of community leaders and nonprofit organizations supporting the LGBTQ community to provide consultation on how to address the communities’ tensions and fears.

CRS facilitated a May 2020 meeting between the FBI’s San Juan, Puerto Rico, field office and local LGBTQ stakeholders to discuss FBI community engagement. The parties set goals of developing trust between federal agencies, law enforcement, and the LGBTQ community to address issues including a lack of understanding of transgender issues and perceptions that Puerto Ricans are treated differently due to the island’s commonwealth status. CRS shared examples of community engagement strategies and best practices for communication. CRS also introduced officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico to representatives of the LGBTQ stakeholder groups to facilitate the LGBTQ groups’ communication of their concerns to that office.

On October 31, 2017, community tension increased following reports that federal prosecutors filed terrorism charges against a Muslim man for allegedly crashing a truck into pedestrians on the Hudson River Park’s bike path, killing eight and injuring 11 others. Reports indicated hate crimes targeting Muslims increased in the alleged terrorist’s hometown of Paterson, New Jersey. Due to this sudden increase in reported hate crimes and the corresponding tensions in Paterson’s Muslim community, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General (USAO-NJ) and a local county prosecutor’s office asked CRS to conduct a Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forum.

CRS formed a planning group in early October 2018 comprised of representatives from the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, and a local prosecutor’s office to organize the event, plan discussion topics, and identify panelists.

On December 4, 2018, approximately 100 members from the city’s African American, Jewish, white, Latino, and Muslim communities; as well as students attended the forum. The panelists were comprised of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness; the USAO-NJ; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office; Passaic Police Department; Anti-Defamation League representatives; and faith-based community leaders. The participants convened for a three-part Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forum to raise awareness of bias-motivated incidents and hate crimes, promote an exchange of ideas, increase communication among participants, and improve police-community relations. CRS facilitated the forum that included panel discussions and question and answer sessions with Muslim, Jewish, and Christian community leaders; the USAO-NJ; the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General; the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office; and local law enforcement. Throughout the forum, participants expressed concerns about the rise in national hate crimes and the need to secure houses of worship.

After the forum, CRS continued working with the Attorney General’s Office to facilitate Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forums across the state and raise awareness of bias-motivated crimes.

CRS began providing conflict resolution services to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General in 2018 to address allegations of anti-Semitism in Ocean County. In FY 2019, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General requested that CRS continue addressing tensions between the growing Orthodox Jewish community and other community groups. According to Jewish community members in Ocean County, conflict increased due to an ongoing series of bias incidents involving anti-Semitic remarks targeting Jewish community members, including anti-Semitic posts on social media. These incidents coincided with an increase in the population of Jewish residents in the area.

Following CRS consultation services during summer 2019, a working group with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and other state officials, a local prosecutor’s office and Jewish community leaders formed to discuss allegations of anti-Semitism and general community relations in Ocean County.

During a CRS-facilitated working group session, Jewish community leaders and other community members agreed to hold a series of community dialogues to address communities’ concerns about anti-Semitism. The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and other state officials committed to implementing and supporting community dialogue sessions throughout the county, both with CRS present and on their own using the CRS framework. CRS provided consultation services to both offices to help them grow their internal capacity to facilitate the dialogues.

Community leaders representing the Jewish, Christian, Latino, and African American communities, along with other civic leaders and school officials, met in early September 2019, for two CRS-facilitated community dialogues. Participants identified existing barriers to communication and cultural challenges. They also discussed ongoing concerns about rising anti-Semitism in the area and religious tensions, as well as strategies for building more positive relations in their communities.

Following the two September dialogues, the participants agreed to engage in additional CRS-facilitated community dialogues and to use the CRS dialogue process in their own communities.

A series of alleged bias-motivated arsons in African American churches in Louisiana throughout the spring of 2019 increased fears and tensions in African American faith communities across the country. In March 2019, African American religious leaders in Union County, New Jersey, asked CRS for assistance in addressing community tension and fear caused by the reports of church burnings and to provide the community with information on how to remain safe.

African American clergy who attended a Protecting Places of Worship (PPOW) forum in Carteret, New Jersey, asked CRS to conduct a similar program at a local church in nearby Scotch Plains. They wanted their congregations and the area’s interfaith communities to be prepared with information about protecting places of worship following the shootings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Charleston, South Carolina; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; and other communities. They believed that bringing a PPOW forum to their communities would address concerns about creating a secure environment where their congregations could safely worship.

During a series of PPOW forum planning sessions held in the spring and early summer of 2019, CRS provided information about the availability of federal, state, and local resources to address hate crimes and secure places of worship.

On June 20, 2019, CRS facilitated a PPOW forum for approximately 100 participants that featured presentations from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Protection; the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Union County Prosecutor’s Office; Union County Office of Emergency Management; and Union County Police Department.

In December 2016, LGBTQ leaders in the Bronx, New York, requested CRS services due to the rise in perceived hate crimes against LGBTQ communities across the country. The resulting community tension prompted community leaders, including community advocates, clergy members, and elected officials to join together to develop strategies to unite the community and raise awareness about impacts of bias and hate in New York City.

CRS provided consultation services to LGBTQ leadership, including best practices on conducting safe public events, effective working group structures, and the use of event marshals to improve public safety. The LGBTQs United as One rally took place on April 1, 2017, outside the Bronx Supreme Court, and included speakers from LGBTQ groups and the faith-based community. CRS also facilitated dialogues which helped improve communication between local law enforcement and event organizers during the event. The event, which lasted about six hours, was peaceful and well received by the community.

Lakewood Township in New Jersey is home to the largest yeshiva (traditional Jewish religious school) in the United States, which in recent years has grown to more than 6,500 students. As the area’s Hasidic Jewish population increased, many of its members perceived a rise in anti-Semitism and resistance to their growing presence.

At the request of the New Jersey Attorney General's Office (NJAG), CRS facilitated a series of meetings in Ocean County, New Jersey, in February 2018, to address the conflicts in the region. CRS facilitated the first meeting with representatives from the NJAG’s office, leaders from the Latino and African American communities, and Hasidic community members from the Jackson, Lakewood, and Tom's River neighborhoods. At the meeting, participants identified key issues facing Lakewood township and the surrounding communities, including references to Hasidic community members as “invaders,” township ordinances appearing to adversely impact Hasidic community members, negative press allegedly used to incite anti-Semitism, and social media posts that supported negative stereotypes.

Meeting participants formed a planning group to develop community-driven action steps to address the alleged negative stereotypes and perceived hostile climate facing the Hasidic community. Additionally, the NJAG's office provided information on existing hate crime training and cultural awareness programs for officers and schools.

Throughout the spring of 2018, CRS worked with the NJAG's office, the planning group, and the communities to identify external resources which support community-based processes to create greater unity in diverse communities. CRS also identified goals for community meetings based on conversations with a diverse group of residents.

In April 2018, CRS convened prosecutors from local counties, leaders from the Jewish and Christian communities, and local law enforcement for a facilitated dialogue. In small groups, participants discussed their concerns about religious and race relations and strategies to build more positive relationships in their communities.

As a direct result of CRS’s involvement in Lakewood and the surrounding towns, community groups and law enforcement in Ocean County drafted a “Love Your Neighbor” proclamation to be observed May 25-27, 2018, as a public step to show broad support for religious unity. That same weekend, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish congregations heard the same sermon, which local faith leaders had drafted, on their respective days of worship.

In June 2016, at the request of the Geneva, New York, City Manager, CRS facilitated a series of community dialogues with local stakeholders in response to reports of a violent altercation involving African American and Latino high school students. While over 50 students were involved in the incident, only African American students were arrested, resulting in allegations of disparate and unfair treatment of African American youth by police.

Through the fall of 2017, CRS held separate meetings with various stakeholders including local government and law enforcement, community groups, and residents. The meetings focused on tensions between the African American and Latino communities, as well as between those communities and law enforcement. The meetings also identified ways stakeholders could address and reduce these tensions in the community. Following these meetings, CRS facilitated a dialogue with the parties to share lessons learned and potential solutions to the community tensions, which included changes to the local civil service exam, resources for diversity and cultural events, and additional Spanish translation services.

To further support the community, CRS provided technical assistance and consultation services. The collaboration between CRS and local stakeholders produced a list of concerns and suggested solutions to be used by the City Manager, the Mayor, law enforcement, and community to help address and reduce the conflicts and tensions with the community.

The Dover School District in Dover, New Hampshire, requested CRS services in December 2019 in response to increased community racial tension caused by a racially offensive video that was posted on social media. The video depicted two white students in a Dover High School classroom singing a Ku Klux Klan-themed Christmas carol as part of a November 2018 class project about the Civil War Reconstruction era. Following the incident, CRS met with the Dover School District superintendent and Dover High School principal, at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Hampshire, to assist the school in addressing the underlying racial tensions.

To help de-escalate tensions in the school community, Dover High School administration officials asked CRS to plan a CRS School-Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (School-SPIRIT) program. CRS worked with school administrators, teachers, staff, and students to explore ways to help increase participation in the upcoming SPIRIT program from a diverse group of students.

School leaders presented an overview of the SPIRIT program at four assemblies, one for each grade level, and requested student volunteers to participate in the program. The school also invited all students to respond to a survey to identify the issues they considered most important to be discussed during the SPIRIT program. Approximately 95 student leaders participated in the one-day program, which was held in February 2020 and facilitated by 24 CRS-trained volunteers. In small groups, the students identified their top concerns as perceived racism, a lack of cultural diversity, and the need for diverse and inclusive classroom services and a more welcoming environment for students of color. The students then met in new breakout groups to develop solutions to the identified concerns and propose a plan of action. These working groups identified solutions such as encouraging safe environments for students and teachers to respectfully share and address sensitive subjects for students; providing training on cultural awareness and diversity; and conducting teacher workshops related to the use of social media, mental health, and other current topics to provide teachers with tools to address issues that their students faced.

At the end of the program, student volunteers formed a SPIRIT council, and the principal expressed support for the work the council will do to implement some of the solutions developed during the day’s program. The council is expected to begin its work as soon as COVID-19 social distancing protocols allow.

Lewiston, Maine, has a large and growing immigrant population, partially the result of secondary migration from other metropolitan areas in the United States. Recently, conflict has been on the rise between the immigrant population and the white community. Low-level tensions escalated in June 2018 when a fight erupted between white and immigrant residents over claims to Kennedy Park, a local gathering place. Tensions between the two groups simmered for several weeks. The situation culminated in a fight in which a white male died after being struck by a rock. State police believe race played a factor in the fight.

Following the June 2018 incident, the Lewiston chief of police requested CRS services to help ease racial tensions and strengthen community relations. Community leaders and city officials requested a City-Site Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (City-SPIRIT) program for Lewiston and neighboring Auburn to address community tensions. CRS formed a working group and provided the group consultation services to help plan the City-SPIRIT program.

In October 2018, CRS returned to Lewiston to facilitate a community dialogue at Central Maine Community College, jointly convened by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine (USAO-ME) and the Lewiston chief of police for more than a dozen participants to discuss possible ways to address tensions in Lewiston and Auburn, including holding a City-SPIRIT program.

CRS continued providing the working group consultation services while they planned with upcoming City-SPIRIT program. In April 2019, CRS, with external assistance, facilitated the City-SPIRIT program in Lewiston for a diverse group of community members, including civic leaders and faith leaders.

In homogenous groups, participants identified issues impacting their community, including unspoken community tension and the need for more education on Islamic culture and practices. Then, participants re-formed into seven heterogeneous groups to develop solutions unique to their community, intended to reduce conflict, improve communication, and minimize the potential for future tensions. These proposed ideas included increased funding for English as a Second Language (ESL) training, creation of a cross-cultural community center, and cross-cultural events at schools and throughout the community to share different traditions, foods, and languages.

To encourage long-term success of the SPIRIT process, CRS returned to Lewiston and Auburn with the mayor’s support to attend and help facilitate meetings of a group, called the SPIRIT Council. As a step towards preventing future escalations and tensions, the Lewiston chief of police agreed to contact CRS whenever law enforcement make an arrest that could inflame race-based tensions in the city.

In February 2019, a photo surfaced on social media that appeared to show two local high school students in blackface. Viewers online quickly provided feedback to the two students that the image was offensive and the students removed it while posting an apology. The students received a one-day, in-school suspension. Some parents felt the discipline the students received was insufficient and that the incident was mishandled, thereby increasing community racial tension. Parents and community members expressed concerns to a local civil rights organization. The civil rights organization, along with the parents, requested a meeting with the superintendent.

After learning about the incident through media reports, CRS conducted outreach to the superintendent. A town-wide organization, Community for Care, hosted a City-Site Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (City-SPIRIT) program to address racial conflict in the broader Simsbury community. They felt a City-SPIRIT program would meet their needs and ease tensions town-wide.

CRS helped form the planning group that organized the program, identified potential participants, and trained external facilitators. The May 2019 City-SPIRIT program attracted more than 100 participants. The program helped defuse local tensions by bringing together diverse community members, including elected town officials, faith-based leaders, parents, educators, and students. Participants identified a lack of education around race and diversity and a need for a more diverse police force as issues affecting their communities. City-SPIRIT participants also discussed issues affecting the school, including a perceived disparity in disciplinary actions and a lack of diversity among faculty, staff, and board of education members. The proposed suggestions fell into two broader categories of educational and community impact, so two councils were formed: (1) the Equity Council, composed of administration, faculty, students, parents and community-members to address educational actions, and (2) the SPIRIT Council, whose membership was derived from the City-SPIRIT program participants.

Longstanding racial tensions at Easthampton High School erupted in March 2017, when a verbal altercation between white and African American students in the school's parking lot escalated into physical violence after one party allegedly used racial slurs. Less than 24 hours after the fight, more than 400 Easthampton High School students walked out of class to protest what they perceived as evidence of the school’s and district leaders’ persistent indifferences to racism and racially motivated violence on campus.

The unresponsiveness alleged by students and recent violence at the school motivated Easthampton Public School District leaders to take action to address these issues. They requested CRS services to help heal and strengthen the Easthampton community. Throughout the school year and into the summer, CRS worked closely with high school and district leaders to address the community's concerns and build consensus around a plan to move forward. In the fall, the parties agreed to hold CRS's School-SPIRIT program to address the students’ issues and develop solutions.

In November 2017, CRS trained Easthampton parents and community members to conduct the program. Then for two days in November, the trained, local volunteers facilitated the program with CRS for approximately 80 student participants. On the program’s first day, students met in groups to identify issues facing Easthampton High School. On the second day, students identified solutions and presented them to school district leaders. At the program’s conclusion, student participants selected their representatives to serve on a SPIRIT Council with the vice principal and the school resource officer.

Less than 30 days after the School-SPIRIT program, the Easthampton SPIRIT Council met to begin implementing solutions to address issues identified as priorities during the program.

Racial tensions at a middle school in Buxton, Maine, escalated during Black History Month following a series of incidents in February 2018. During that time, a student at the school affixed Confederate flag stickers to a laptop. Another incident involved a teacher drawing parallels between the Black Panther Party and Black Lives Matter during a lesson and asking only African American students which group they would join today. Tensions at the school were already high after an incident earlier in the academic year when a student wore a shirt to school with the Confederate flag, heightening school leaders’ concerns for the safety of their students.

Following the Black History Month incidents, school officials contacted CRS about a program to reduce potential violence and prevent hate crimes targeting the district’s students. Throughout April 2018, CRS consulted with small groups of school district leaders, who agreed to draft a 24-month plan to develop a commission capable of responding to bias-motivated incidents throughout the district. The group also decided to bring CRS's School-SPIRIT program to the district as a critical measure to prevent racially-motivated violence.

Less than a month later, CRS trained five facilitators to lead the program for a diverse group of student leaders. During the course of the two-day program, students engaged in facilitated dialogues about their personal experiences with race and racially-motivated bias and developed solutions to self-identified issues. The program resulted in an action plan and the formation of a SPIRIT Council to execute the plan with the intent to create a more welcome and safe school environment for all students.

In October 2017, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire requested CRS’s services in light of increasing racial tension on a college campus following reports that white students posted a video of themselves online mimicking an African American musical artist and using racial epithets.

At the U.S. Attorney's request, CRS immediately began facilitating dialogues in New Hampshire with the U.S. Attorney's Office, college officials, and a local civil rights group about addressing racial issues on college campuses. Following the initial meeting in October 2017, the parties agreed to continue meeting as a working group to address ongoing racial bias on campuses.

The working group, with CRS’s assistance, conducted a series of forums across New Hampshire for students, educators, and community members to address bias and hate incidents on local college and university campuses.