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Richard W. Cole, Esq. - Providing Consulting and Legal Services in Civil Rights, Harrassment and Discrimination Richard W. Cole, Esq. Civil Rights and Safe School Consulting

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About Cole Civil Rights and

   Safe Schools Consulting

Richard W. Cole is a nationally known civil rights attorney, former Assistant Attorney General and Civil Rights Division Chief in the Massachusetts Office of Attorney General.

As a Civil Rights and Safe Schools Consultant, attorney Richard Cole provides training, technical, policy and investigative assistance to schools and law enforcement on civil rights, discrimination, school climate and safety, disability rights, race relations and in addressing harassment, bullying and hate crimes in schools and cyberspace. Attorney Cole also provides legal representation to clients in legal matters involving discrimination and harassment in K-12 schools and higher education, and in employment and housing.

Cole is a highly successful and skilled litigator, investigator, advisor and trainer on civil rights matters in K-12 schools, higher education and law enforcement, and on discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, health, mental health, banking and mortgage lending.

Cole has argued successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cole is Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Conviction Integrity Working Group, and its spin-off, the Massachusetts Conviction Integrity Task Force, consisting  of leading Massachusetts prosecutors, innocence, defense and civil rights attorneys, a prisoner rights advocate, and former judges, convened by the Massachusetts Bar Association ("MBA") (2018-present); Chair of the MBA's Immigration Working Group (March 2017-present) ("uniting a coalition" of leading attorneys from state and city government and non-gvernmental organizations); former Chair, Civil Rights and Social Justice Section Council, MBA (Sept. 2016--Aug. 2018), and Member of this Section Council (Sept. 2018-present); and former Chair, Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section of the MBA (1994-1996). 

Cole received the MBA's 2018 "Volunteer Recognition Award" for "helping to establish the MBA as a throught leader in the area of immigrant rights and criminal justice reform," including "introduciing a historic (MBA) Resolution" in support of immigrant rights in January 2017; the Immigration Working Group's "instumental" efforts leading to the American Bar Association's adoption of three recent ABA policies "aimed at preserving and expanding legal protections for immigrants;" and "initiatiing the creation of the MBA Criminal Justice Reform Working Group, some of whose Resolutions were included in the (Massachusetts) landmark reform bill signed into law in April" 2018.


Cole has been a keynote, plenary and workshop speaker and insructor at conferences and programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education; U.S. Department of Justice; National Association of Attorneys General; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; National Academy of Education; International Association of Chiefs of Police; National Center for Hate Crime Prevention; National Association of School Resource Officers; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; American Psychiatric Association; state education departments and associations, MA Federation of Children with Special Needs; MA District Attorney Offices; and MA Juvenile Police Officers Association.

Cole is an "AV Preeminent Rated" attorney, the highest possible professional rating, for the past twenty-five years. Additionally, Cole has been "selected as one of New England Top Rated Lawyers" by Martindale-Hubbell, and as a top rated "Civil Rights Attorney" in the Edition of Boston's Top Rated Lawyers, The Definitive Guide to Legal Representation in Boston," the Martindale-Hubbell publication identifying lawyers rated by peers as reaching "the highest levels of ethical standards and professional excellence, - - "the highest Peer Review rating available." Cole has also been selected by Super Lawyers in 2020 and 2021 for its list of "Massachusetts Super Lawyers."

As a consultant for the United States Information Agency (USIA) in 1994, Cole advised the Attorneys General of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal, and counseled and trained their police and military leadership and their leading human rights advocates and lawyers on effective human and civil rights enforcement and advocacy strategies.

During his 16 years in civil rights leadership positions at the Massachusetts Office of Attorney General, from 1991-2007, Cole developed and led the office’s innovative civil rights and anti-discrimination litigation, prevention, training and public-policy initiatives.

While Civil Rights Division Chief, Cole was National Chair of the Civil Rights Working Group of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), facilitating federal-state civil rights enforcement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For these efforts, in 1995 he received NAAG’s prestigious 'Marvin Award,' "Awarded Each Year to the Individual Who Has Demonstrated Outstanding Leadership, Expertise and Achievement in Advancing the Goals of the National Association of Attorneys General, in 1994-1995."

Prior to his state employment, Cole was a partner in the highly regarded private law firm of Stahlin, Bergstresser and Cole, P.C., where Cole successfully represented victims in complex civil rights, discrimination, malpractice and personal injury litigation. He was also a managing, staff and VISTA attorney in Greater Boston Legal Services, litigating precedent-setting civl rights, discrimination, mental health and housing law cases.

Cole was an active member of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's Commission to Study Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts. The Commssion issued its Final Report, "Equal Justice, Eliminating the Barriers," in September 1994.

Cole is a member of the Massachusetts bar, the United States District Court of Massachusetts, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court. He is a graduate of Boston University School of Law and George Washington University.

Cole has received recognition awards for his advocacy from the Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education in 2011; the Massachusetts Administrators for Special Education in 2011, 2008 and 2006; from Citizens for Public Schools in 2005; and from the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston in 2002. In 1997, the Massachusetts Asian-American Lawyers Association awarded the Civil Rights Division, through Cole, its Division Chief, its Community Service Award “for significant accomplishments in advancing civil rights.”

Cole K-12 Education Profile

  • Trained, counseled and provided technical assistance to thousands of educators on school climate and safety, equity, race relations, disability rights,and preventing and responding to bullying, harassment, and hate crimes in schools and cyberspace.
  • The Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education (OCR) presented Cole "Certificate of Appreciation" on 12/13/11 for presentations to national OCR staff, Racial Harassment Network, on 11/17/11, and to staff in OCR Region I, New England, on 5/19/11, stating, "your candor and insights gave our staff a rare opportunity to hear directly from a consultant working closely with schools regarding challenges, as well as effective strategies, for addressing school climate issues." OCR also commended Cole "for your dedication in ensuring that all students, regardless of race, have an equal access to an education."
  • National Co-Chair for and contributory author of the acclaimed U.S. Department of Education publication, "Protecting Students from Harassment and Hate Crime- A Guide for Schools."
  • Developed and Co-Chaired the Massachusetts statewide "Safe Schools Initiative" with more than 70 leaders from education, law enforcement, health, prevention, civil rights and victim assistance, to provide the training and technical assistance K-12 schools need to make them safe from harassment, hate crimes and bullying. See NSBA’s "Leadership Insider." (PDF)
  • Lead trial and appellate counsel in Comfort v. Lynn School Committee, 283 F.Supp.2d 328 (D. Mass. 2003), 418 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2005) (en banc), cert. denied, 126 S.Ct. 798 (2005), successfully defending the constitutionality of the student-assignment plan the City of Lynn, Massachusetts used to integrate its schools; established through expert testimony the extensive benefits of integration. PDF  PDF
  • Lead author of amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in October 2006 on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts supporting the constitutionality of the voluntary integration plans of the Seattle and Louisville school districts. PDF
  • Presenter and professional development trainer on civil rights, school climate and safety, harassment, bullying, cyberbullying, equity, race relations, integration, and disability rights at conferences and programs sponsored by U.S. Department of Education, National Academy of Education, state education departments and associations, Federation of Children with Special Needs; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the National Association of School Resource Officers.   
  • Recognized by Massachusetts Administrators for Special Education (ASE) in 2011 for "advancing statewide special education practice," in 2008 "for his tireless support for quality special education services to students with disabilities," and in 2006, “for exemplary leadership in promoting safe schools." Also recognized by the Massachusetts Citizens for Public Schools in 2005, "for longtime commitment to civil rights in education." [return to top]
Cole Higher Education Profile
  • "Independent fact-finder" and investigator at university-level under Title IX for allegations of sexual violence and sexual misconduct.                                                                       
  • Provided legal advice to colleges involving civil rights, discrimination, and affirmative action.
  • Litigated complex university civil rights cases; for e.g., case filed in Office of Civil Rights, U.S Department of Education, resulting in applicant's admission into prestigious graduate school, after rejection, based on claim of age discrimination.
  • Participated in college hate-crime cases and investigations; provided training and technical assistance to campus police on civil rights, harassment, and hate crimes. [return to top]
Cole Law Enforcement Profile
  • Many years of experience performing police investigations and providing technical assistance and training to law enforcement on civil rights, police misconduct, racial profiling, hate crimes, discrimination, internal affairs investigations, and school safety.
  • Successfully litigated hate crime and police misconduct cases in court. Participated in and advised state and local police departments, district attorney offices, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in hate-crime and police-misconduct investigations.                                     
  • For ten years led the Massachusetts Attorney General's statewide Hate Crimes Task Force consisting of more than 100 law enforcement and community leaders from throughout the Commonwealth.
  • Spoken on civil rights and hate-crime investigations and enforcement at conferences and programs for the U.S. Department of Justice, National Association of Attorneys General, National Center for Hate Crime Prevention, District Attorneys, National Association of School Resource Officers, Massachusetts Juvenile Police Officers Association, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
  • National Co-Chair of the joint federal-state hate-crime training initiative, and a leading author and editor of the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) publication in 1999 of three hate-crime modules currently used to train state and local law enforcement in the U.S. on hate-crime response and investigations; helped lead DOJ’s national train-the-trainer efforts. [return to top]
Cole Employment Profile
  • Litigated or supervised employment discrimination cases on account of race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, disability, age and retaliation; coauthored amicus briefs in U.S. Supreme Court and Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
  • Developed, drafted, and monitored implementation of model equal employment consent agreements; provided employers extensive technical assistance and training on preventing and responding to discrimination, including harassment and retaliation.
  • As Civil Rights Division Chief, negotiated detailed, court enforceable "Equal Employment Opportunity Agreement" with the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority); agreed-to by twenty-six MBTA collective bargaining units; closely monitored the MBTA's compliance with Agreement over seven years.
  • Cole is a graduate of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination's certified train-the-trainer programs, "Preventing Harassment in the Workplace," and "Conducting Internal Discrimination Complaint Investigations." [return to top]

Cole Housing Profile

  • Supervised or personally litigated more than 150 housing discrimination cases; crafted model housing and mortgage lending consent agreements and monitored their compliance.
  • In response to Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s 1992 study, led investigation of mortgage lending industry to promote fair lending; led negotiations with the Massachusetts Bankers Association and lenders resulting in industry-wide reforms and training.
  • Supervised successful prosecutions of civil hate-crime enforcement actions to protect tenants and owners of homes from bias-motivated intimidation and violence; trained state, local, and housing police in responding to and investigating hate crimes in housing.
  • Presenter at national and regional conferences for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 
  • Received "Open Doors Award" from the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston in 2002, "for his tireless efforts to promote housing access and reduce tensions in our communities." [return to top]


Cole's Partial List of Significant Cases

  • Comfort v. Lynn School Committee, 283 F.Supp.2d 328 (D. Mass. 2003), 418 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2005) (en banc), cert. denied, 126 S.Ct. 798 (2005) (nationally acclaimed case establishing the extensive educational, social and citizenship benefits to all students from integration; successfully defended constitutionality of voluntary school assignment plan that prevented segregation and promoted integration).

  • Commonwealth v. Adams, 416 Mass. 558, 624 N.E.2d 102 (1993) (first reported civil rights injunction issued against individual police officers in U.S.; permanent injunction issued under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act prohibiting police officers' future use of excessive force and failure to report excessive force by other officers).

  • Hopper v. Callahan, 408 Mass. 621, 562 N.E.2d 862 (1990) (successful defense against complex immunity claims in important civil rights case involving death of patient in seclusion room in state mental health facility).

  • Rogers v. Okin, 638 F.Supp. 934 (D. Mass. 1986); 821 F.2d 22 (1st Cir. 1987) (complex attorneys' fee claim resulting in one of largest civil rights fee awards in U.S.).

  • Rogers v. Okin, 478 F. Supp. 1342 (D. Mass. 1979); 634 F.2d 650 (1st Cir. 1980); Mills v. Rogers, 457 U.S. 291 (1982); Rogers v. Commissioner, Department of Mental Health, 390 Mass. 489, 458 N.E.2d 308 (1983); Rogers v. Okin, 738 F.2d 1 (1st Cir. 1984) (first case and leading case in U.S. establishing right of hospitalized psychiatric patients to refuse antipsychotic drugs).

  • Guardianship of Jane Doe, 391 Mass 614, 463 N.E.2d 339 (1984) (successful challenge to guardianship practices of Probate Court concerning civil commitment and treatment of mentally ill persons with antipsychotic drugs). 

  • Rogers v. Commissioner, Department of Mental Health, 390 Mass. 489, 458 N.E.2d 308 (1983) (leading state court decision establishing fundamental right of hospitalized psychiatric patients to refuse anti-psychotic drugs).

  • Simon v. Solomon, 385 Mass. 91, 431 N.E.2d 556 (1982) (novel personal injury case where landlord held liable by jury for recklessly inflicting emotional distress on tenant for shockingly substandard housing conditions).

  • Matter of Guardianship of Roe, 383 Mass.415, 421 N.E.2d 40 (1981) (precedent-setting decision limiting a guardian's authoriity to authorize forcible use of anti-psychotic drugs on non-institutionalized mentally ill ward in absence of emergency; requires application of judicially applied substitute judgment standard for consent in non-emergencies). [return to top]

Richard W. Cole




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