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OJJDP News @ a Glance

This issue highlights OJJDP’s fiscal year 2023 funding awards, OJJDP Tribal consultations, a panel discussion on advocacy with system-involved youth and parents, and the Preventing Youth Hate Crimes and Identity-Based Bullying Virtual Symposium.
Message From the Administrator: A New Year Brings New Opportunities for Justice
OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan - News @ a Glance

OJJDP Symposium Addresses Hate Crimes and Identity-Based Bullying by Youth

preventing youth hate crimes & bullying logo

Dire statistics reveal how hate crimes and identity-based bullying continue to permeate the lives of hundreds of thousands of youth in the United States.

Youth younger than age 18 committed approximately 15 percent of hate crimes in the United States in 2021, according to FBI statistics. These numbers mask the true extent of the problem, as the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program is voluntary and some law enforcement agencies do not participate.

Bullying is even more prevalent among youth. Young people from marginalized racial and ethnic groups, children with disabilities, and young people who identify as gay or transgender are among those most at risk. For example, high school students who identify as LGBQ+ are far more likely than heterosexual youth to be bullied at school (23 percent versus 12 percent) or cyberbullied (27 percent versus 13 percent), according to 2021 survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

OJJDP is committed to helping communities counter these disturbing trends, promoting opportunities and resources that encourage youth to value and respect diversity, know their self-worth, and feel a sense of belonging. More than 1,500 professionals registered to attend OJJDP’s second Preventing Youth Hate Crimes and Identity-Based Bullying Virtual Symposium on October 17–18, including educators, school counselors, law enforcement and juvenile justice professionals, and others in child-serving positions.

“It starts with us. It’s up to each of us to become role models of kindness—to teach and encourage respect for diversity.”

—Administrator Liz Ryan, speaking at OJJDP’s symposium

“All people in this country should be able to live without fear of being attacked or harassed because of where they are from, what they look like, whom they love, or how they worship,” said Deputy Associate Attorney General Saeed Mody in opening remarks. “This symposium could not be more timely.”

Keynote speaker Dennis Shepard addressed the symposium just days after marking the 25th anniversary of his son Matthew’s death. In October 1998, Matthew was beaten, brutally tortured, and left to die—because he was gay. Mr. Shepard founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation to honor his son’s life, promote acceptance of difference, and stand up for youth who identify as LGBTQ. Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, expanding federal hate crimes legislation to include protections for those who suffer violence due to their actual or perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.

Other symposium speakers presented the latest statistics and trends, and offered recommendations for intervening when young people engage in bullying or hate crimes. They discussed ways to identify and confront identity-based bullying, and how to help de-radicalize youth recruited by hate groups. Others focused on religious-based hate, including Antisemitism and Islamophobia. Additional topics included cyberbullying, cyberhate, online recruitment, and steps communities can take to support youth who encounter cyberhate and recruitment by extremist groups. 

Speakers pointed to systemic and cultural contributors to the identity-based bullying and hate crimes youth endure or commit. Political rancor and a divisive legislative climate help to normalize identity-based bullying, according to Dorothy L. Espelage, the University of North Carolina’s William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of Education. A researcher who has spent 30 years embedded in schools, Dr. Espelage said that bullying is a social justice issue best addressed through programs and policies that emphasize empowerment and confront prejudice. Her recommendations for supporting students include:

Defining Hate Crimes

When describing hate crimes, the Justice Department defines “hate” as bias against people or groups with specific characteristics—such as race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability. “Crime” often refers to violence—such as assault, vandalism, or threats—but may also mean conspiring with another person, even if the crime never occurred. Incidents that do not constitute crime but are motivated by prejudice are termed “bias” or “hate incidents.”

  • Give them an equal voice. Provide a forum for sharing their experiences.
  • Train teachers and school psychologists on ways to support students who come from racially marginalized communities, identify as LGBTQ, or have disabilities, to ensure they have the skills necessary to address student needs.
  • Foster protective communities and prevention efforts to serve young people and families outside school as well as within.

Several Justice Department officials also offered remarks at the 2-day symposium, including OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan, Deputy Administrator Chyrl Jones, and Program Manager Stephanie Rapp. Other speakers represented the National Institute of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Southern Poverty Law Center. The symposium closed with a panel discussion by youth who shared their personal experiences with bullying, hate crimes, and interventions they found effective.


OJJDP launched the national Preventing Youth Hate Crimes & Identity-Based Bullying Initiative in 2021, in response to the alarming frequency of hate crimes in the United States and their impact on young people. It focuses particularly on youth in marginalized populations, who are especially vulnerable to victimization or radicalization. The initiative website includes links to numerous resources, such as recordings from a 13-part webinar series.

Date Created: December 12, 2023