Plan would require hate crime lessons in schools

State lawmakers from Nassau County are unveiling legislation aimed at reducing hate crimes by increasing education.

"It’s incredibly important that when our young people go to school, they understand what these symbols mean, how they were used, and what pain they can inflict in our communities," says State Senator Todd Kaminsky.

The proposal, introduced by Kaminsky and State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, would require all students between the sixth and twelfth grades to learn about symbols of hatred and racial bias, including the swastika and the noose.

The Board of Regents would determine exactly how to incorporate those lessons into existing curriculums.

"Everyone here has had someone in their family who has been victimized by hatred," adds Lavine.

County officials say the number of reported hate crimes had been steadily decreasing in recent years until now.

In 2018, there were 34 reported hate crimes in Nassau County.  There have been 44 so far in 2019.

The most recent incident happened last week when an Oyster Bay Park was vandalized with hand-drawn swastikas.

"It’s not just about anti-Semitism, it’s about all forms of hate and intolerance," says Steven Markowitz, Chairman of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center.

Both students and teachers alike agree that more open dialogue in the classroom could deter acts of intolerance, and possibly even prevent them from happening in the first place.

The bill will go before lawmakers in the 2020 legislative session.