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Color-based bias is discrimination based on a person’s skin color; color can be, but is not necessarily, a characteristic of a person’s race. Conflicts involving actual or perceived color are often intertwined with race. CRS supports communities that experience tension and conflict related to actual or perceived color by:

  • Strengthening police-community relations and assisting law enforcement agencies and community members with resolving color-based conflict
  • Providing technical assistance, best practices, and training to local, state, and federal government agencies, commissions, and organizations on preventing and responding to allegations of color-based bias
  • Facilitating dialogues with students, faculty, and staff of schools where color-based conflicts exist and developing mechanisms to prevent tension and violence

Below are some recent examples of CRS's work assisting communities experiencing color-based tension and conflict. Additional case summaries may be found within CRS’s Annual Reports, located on the CRS Resource Center webpage.

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 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.

Resources for You

Dialogue on Race (PDF)

School-Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (School-SPIRIT) (PDF)

City-Site Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (City-SPIRIT) (PDF)

Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships (SPCP) (PDF)

Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum (PDF)

Additional Resources and Informational Videos

Updated December 27, 2023