Frequently Asked Questions
THE WORK OF THE AHRC
HOW TO FILE A HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLAINT
WHAT TO EXPECT AT A MONTHLY AHRC MEETING
I would like to attend a meeting of the AHRC, but would strongly prefer to do so when members of APD are not there. Does the AHRC hold meetings without police presence? Can you arrange for police not to attend an AHRC meeting?
THE WORK OF THE AHRC
1. What are the differences between human rights and civil rights?
Human rights are those freedoms that all people have regardless of nationality. You can read the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Civil rights are those freedoms bestowed by a government to its citizens. In Massachusetts equal rights are guaranteed in specific settings and circumstances: Education, Employment, Housing, Lending, and Public Accommodation. The Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General protects civil rights in our state.
2. What is a protected class?
A protected class is a group of people that is protected, by civil rights laws, from discrimination in accessing education, employment, housing, financial services, healthcare, transportation, voting, marriage, free speech, and privacy. Current federal protected classes include: race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, disability, familial status, and national origin. In Massachusetts, which has its own codified series of protected classes in law, “sexual orientation” includes people who are transgender.
3. How do I join or get involved?
The AHRC is made up of 13 commissioners. When there are vacancies, we publish invitations to apply. In addition, we are always looking for volunteers to help us in our work: with outreach, events, communications, and more! Contact us to learn more.
4. How do I get a lawn sign from the AHRC?
5. What should I do when I see/hear someone expressing bias/hate?
Before responding, one should always assess the situation for danger. If it is deemed safe to respond, it is suggested that one focus on the individual targeted. This minimizes confrontation with the person expressing bias, reinforces that not all people share those thoughts, and builds a sense of community.
6. When should I call the police?
If you think the police may be helpful, then you should call. Former APD Chief Ryan said, “We would much rather be called and not needed, than not called and needed.”
HOW TO FILE A HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLAINT
1. How do I bring an issue or complaint to the attention of the AHRC?
We want to make this as easy as possible for you. Once you contact us, a Commissioner will reach out to follow up and guide you. Here are the best ways to reach out to the Commission:
Fill out our online intake form by clicking “Report an Incident” in the top right corner, or go straight to this link: https://www.arlingtonhumanrights.org/report-an-incident
Email the commission at firstname.lastname@example.org
Leave us a voicemail at 781-316-3250
Reach us by mail at 27 Maple Street, Arlington, MA 02476
2. What information do I need to provide the Commission in filing my complaint?
We have two forms that can be used, the simple Report an Incident form found at the top of the page, or the more detailed Formal Complaint form that you can access here:
3. Will my complaint be confidential?
We value confidentiality. However, please be aware that any communication in writing-email, or written complaint, is subject to public record law, except in instances where we are legally required to redact personal information.
4. Can I file an anonymous complaint?
Yes. Please note, the anonymous nature of your complaint may limit how effectively the AHRC can respond to or address the issues you want to bring to our attention.
5. Can I bring a complaint on behalf of someone else?
Yes. Parents can bring a complaint on behalf of their minor child or on behalf of an adult dependent with disabilities. A son or daughter could raise a concern on behalf of an elderly parent who may not be able to advocate effectively for themselves.
It is also not unusual for one person to bring a complaint or raise an issue on behalf of a group of persons who are being similarly harmed or affected by prejudicial acts or behavior.
6. Do I have to reside in Arlington to bring something to the attention of the AHRC?
No. The AHRC accepts complaints or concerns from anyone who lives, works, visits, or passes through Arlington.
7. How quickly will I receive a response to my complaint or concern?
Commissioners strive to respond within 2 business days of receiving a complaint or concern.
8. How will my complaint be handled?
The Commissioner who is assigned to respond to your issue or complaint will reach out to you to schedule a phone call or zoom meeting. More than one phone call may be needed. Sometimes an in-person meeting may be appropriate. The Commissioner will then discuss with you potential avenues of action or identify other ways the AHRC may be helpful to you.
9. What should I do if I have concerns that the Commissioner assigned to my complaint has a conflict of interest or I am unhappy with how my concern is being handled?
We invite you to be in touch with one of the Co-Chairs to discuss your specific concerns to determine if additional Commissioners should be involved or consulted in responding to your particular concern or complaint.
10. I want help, but I don’t want to make a formal complaint. Is there any other way the AHRC can help?
The AHRC will work with you to provide support and seek alternatives to the formal complaint process.
11. I don’t want to speak with just one Commissioner, I’d like to speak to the whole Commission. How can I do that?
We invite you to attend one of our AHRC meetings, which are, by law, open to the public. There are two ways to speak at AHRC meetings:
First, any member of the public, including a town employee, can address the Commissioners for up to three (3) minutes at each meeting. All those seeking to speak during the public comment period are asked to state their name and street address. Please note that Commissioners are not able to enter into a discussion with you (or other public commenters) during this public comment time.
Second, the Commission may invite an individual or a group of people to speak with the Commission pertaining to a specific agenda item. This invitation must be made in advance of the meeting and the agenda item included on the publicly noticed agenda. In the case of agenda items, the Commissioners may have a discussion with invited speakers about the specific topic of the agenda item.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT A MONTHLY AHRC MEETING
1. How often does the AHRC meet and how can I attend?
The AHRC meets once per month, typically the third Wednesday of every month from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. The AHRC changes its meeting dates and times when Town Meeting is in session so that Commissioners can attend Town Meeting. AHRC meetings are conducted in person and remotely and attendees can choose their method of attendance. General information and information about registering to attend an AHRC meeting can be found on the Town’s website. If you do decide to attend a meeting, please read through the protocols for Public Participation in advance.
2. Who typically attends meetings of the AHRC?
All thirteen (13) Commissioners, including the two Co-Chairs, usually attend as well as the Town’s Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and/or the Town’s Community Outreach & Engagement Coordinator. Both positions regularly assist the AHRC with its work and mandate and the AHRC is hosted within the Town’s DEI Office. Members of the public may attend, including Town employees. Any guest speakers, including members of other town entities like the public schools or police department, will be listed on the meeting agenda, which is made public in advance (see #7 below).
3. May the AHRC exclude anyone from attending an AHRC monthly meeting?
No, anyone can attend the meeting as a member of the public and the AHRC cannot exclude anyone from any portion of the meeting except when it is in Executive Session. Anyone who is not on the agenda may speak during the “public comment” portion of the meeting.
4. Do members of the Arlington Police Department or other Town employees attend AHRC meetings?
Yes. Arlington Police or any other Town employees are eligible to attend as members of the public, and may also attend if they are invited to speak on a particular agenda item. They will be listed on the agenda in this case.
5. I would like to attend a meeting of the AHRC, but would strongly prefer to do so when members of APD are not there. Does the AHRC hold meetings without police presence? Can you arrange for police not to attend an AHRC meeting?
We understand and appreciate that some members of our community would strongly prefer not to have a police presence at AHRC meetings, but the AHRC cannot bar individuals from attending our meetings. The AHRC, like all town Commissions, is governed by the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law, G.L. c. 30A, which requires that all meetings of a public body be open to the public. This Open Meeting Law makes no meaningful distinction between town employees and non-employees or between town employees who are on-duty and those who are off-duty.
In light of this law, the AHRC may not close its meetings, or any portion of its meetings. The narrow “executive session” exception applies only in rare circumstances.
6. Who sets the agenda for each meeting of the AHRC?
Each month’s agenda is set by the AHRC Co-Chairs who typically solicit input from Commissioners prior to finalizing. Which topics are included on the agenda is at the discretion of the Co-Chairs. It is the responsibility and purview of the Co-Chairs to invite those individuals whom they would like to hear from to speak at the monthly meeting.
7. Do you publish each month’s agenda before the meeting?
Yes. Each month’s AHRC agenda and the minutes from prior meetings can be found on the Town’s website. Per the Massachusetts public meeting law, the agenda will be posted 48 hours in advance of the meeting and must list all topics that the Co-Chairs reasonably anticipate will be discussed at the meeting. The list of topics must be sufficiently specific to reasonably inform the public of the issues to be discussed at the meeting (listing, for example, specific topics to be discussed as opposed to just people who will present).
8. How would I suggest an item for your monthly agenda?
Please be in touch with one of the AHRC Co-Chairs at email@example.com