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5 Biggest News Stories of the Week: Feb. 24

As the saying goes, the news never stops — but there’s a lot of it out there, and all of it doesn’t always pertain to our readers. In this weekly news roundup, we’ll cover the top news stories that matter most to our diversity focused audience.

1. Ahmaud Arbery’s Killers Found Guilty of Hate Crimes

 Hate crimes are often considered difficult to prosecute unless the evidence is overwhelming and extreme. That line of thinking was defeated this week when the three white men who killed Ahmaud Arbery were brought to justice. Arbery was a 25-year-old Black Georgia resident who was chased through the streets of a neighborhood he was jogging in and ultimately murdered by these men.

The three men, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were found guilty of interference of rights, a federal hate crime, and attempted kidnapping. This comes roughly three months after they were convicted of murder by a state court.

It’s an important decision as it provides yet another reminder to risk-averse prosecutors that hate crime trials should be fought and are not as hard to win as is often argued. Data backs this up as well. Statistics collected by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics state the opposite. The numbers collected by the bureau show that from 2015 to 2019, the conviction rate for hate crimes was 94%. This increased from the 83% conviction rate from 2005 to 2009.

The verdict is the final piece of an open and shut case that made waves in the social reckoning around race in America during 2020.

2. Minnesota School Counselor Teaches Students About Black History Month

Derek Francis, a counseling professional who trains and supervises counselors for Minneapolis Public Schools, the third-largest school district in Minnesota, has found ways to incorporate Black History Month in the classroom this February, Minnesota Public Radio News’ Elizabeth Shockman reported.

Francis said the counseling curriculum includes lessons around diversity and inclusion and being a “person of color the kids see.”

Recently, Francis went to Jenny Lind Elementary to talk to kids who will soon go to middle school.

To get the kids talking, he started out with a game where they shared their favorite type of candy and then transitioned to talking about making new friends, even with people who aren’t just like them.

“When you get to middle school, look for ways you can get to know people. Find things that you have in common,” he said.

This message is important because Francis said he has seen how the “inability to relate to people” can be harmful to students, especially when it comes to racist incidents that have happened in schools where he works.

A report from the American School Counselor Association shows that there is a lack of DEI programs in almost half of the schools in the U.S. But schools that do have anti-racism efforts have seen a 41% improvement in school climate.

3. Legislation Introduced in California Could Declare Street Harassment a Public Health Issue

Stop AAPI Hate has come together with California Assembly members and the California Health Nail Salon Collaborative to introduce legislation that would “define street harassment in a public health context and direct the creation of a public education campaign as well as a study to seek solutions on preventing harassment,” according to a statement from Stop AAPI Hate.

The legislation was created in response to an increase in harassment and violence against women, Asian Americans and other marginalized groups in the state. NBC News’ Sakshi Venkatraman reported that Anti-Asian hate crimes rose more than 73% in 2020, according to FBI data.

Stop AAPI Hate said people most affected by street harassment include women, young girls, the elderly, and Black, Latina, Asian and LBGTQ communities. Street harassment includes “racialized or sexualized slurs, vulgar gestures, and unwanted actions that contribute to feeling unsafe in public spaces, including public transit.”

The groups have proposed two types of legislation. The first, called the “End Street Harassment” legislation, which was introduced by Assemblymembers Mia Bonta and Dr. Akilah Weber, aims to make California the first state to look at street harassment in a public health view. The legislation would also create a public education campaign around the topic while finding solutions to prevent harassment.

The second piece of proposed legislation, the “Public Transit Ridership Safety” legislation (SB 1161), was introduced by Sen. Dave Min. This legislation would require the largest transit districts in the Golden State to recognize and address street harassment as a safety issue to riders. It would also require transit districts to come up with initiatives to decrease street harassment.

4. Chipotle Increases Incentive Bonus Tied to ESG Goals

Restaurant giant Chipotle Mexican Grill has increased the incentive bonus for executives tied to goals around achieving sustainability, Lisa Jennings wrote for Nation’s Restaurant News.

Up to 15% of the annual incentive bonus for executives is based on Chipotle’s progress toward reaching certain ESG targets. In 2021, 10% of the bonus was tied to ESG goals.

Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s Chief Corporate Affairs and Food Safety Officer, said that the bonus was designed to encourage its executive leadership team to “make responsible business decisions that cultivate a better world.”

This year, the company is increasing its goal for buying ingredients that are better for the planet by promising to buy at least 57 million pounds of organic, transitional and/or locally grown ingredients, up from 55 million pounds purchased in 2021.

Chipotle also plans to focus on people development by increasing the diversity of candidates in the “promotion pipeline” beyond its current goal of 60% for positions such as field leaders, regional vice presidents and team directors.

Jennings reported Chipotle did not provide data on the diversity of people in the positions mentioned.

In 2021, Chipotle did, however, achieve its goals of maintaining racial and gender pay equity, based on an analysis conducted by a third party. The chain also implemented a robust crew pay strategy to ensure consistent and equitable pay decisions across the organization.

5. NYPD Takes to Twitter To Brag About Bust That Seized Basic Necessities From People in Need

 In a Tweet that has since been deleted, the New York Police Department posed in a photo with $1,800 worth of necessities such as diapers, laundry detergent and medicine that were seized by police in a bust, Vice reported.

The since-deleted Tweet from the 44th precinct of the department read: “After receiving numerous larceny complaints in the Bronx, officers from the @NYPD44Pct recently arrested 12 individuals following an enforcement initiative targeting shoplifters. The arrests made led to the closure of 23 warrants & the recovery of $1,800 worth of merchandise.”

The Appeal reporter Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg said in a Tweet that information given to her on those arrested show that the addresses of two of the people are homeless shelters and that one person is a 64-year-old woman.

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