Md. bill aims to address hate-bias incidents on college campuses

ANNAPOLIS, MD. -- Maryland state lawmakers held a public hearing on Thursday on a bill that is aimed at addressing hate-bias incidents at public institutions in the state.

HB0511, entitled the "Public Institutions of Higher Education - Hate-Bias Incident Prevention" bill, was authored by Del. Angela Angel (D-Prince George's).

Angel said she wrote it in response to the rising number of incidents occurring in the state, including the fatal stabbing of Bowie State University senior Lt. Richard Collins III on the campus of the University of Maryland College Park. His murder is being tried as a hate crime.

But Angel added this bill would also cover incidents that do not rise to the level of a hate crime and aims to establish a uniform response to them across all public colleges and universities.

The bill would require the schools to develop response plans to incidents, notify students whenever there is one, and have a publicly available database tracking each incident.

It would also require institutions to have a mandatory educational program to teach incoming students about hate-bias incidents, what resources are available, and how to report them.

"We may not be able to stop some of this, right? But once the schools understand it’s happening regularly, that we can do, as we say, we can drown it out by love," said Angel.

While no one spoke out against the bill entirely at the hearing, some people had issues with parts of it.

Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) Police Maj. Cleveland Smith said that putting out notifications on smaller campuses could lead to the victim of the incident being identified, while on all campuses, such a notification system may encourage perpetrators.

"He knows he’s going to get credit for doing it through the mass notification system, I think that will empower them," added Smith.

Meanwhile, the AACC diversity officer asked the community colleges possibly be exempt from the mandatory training or meet the requirement in some other way as she said community colleges do not have as much control over their students as a four-year university.

If the bill is passed as written, it would become law in October 2018 and the schools would have to have their plans in place by fiscal year 2019.