REPORT: US Middle Schoolers Facing ‘Hate’ Charges for Online Chat

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Six students in Massachusetts are currently facing charges related to “hate” for their involvement in an online chat conversation that reportedly involved discussing a “mock slave auction.” These students, aged between 13 and 14, attend Southwick Regional School in Massachusetts, as reported by WBTS.

The alleged incidents of “hate speech and race-based bullying” took place on February 8, according to Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, who addressed the matter during a press conference on Thursday. Gulluni further mentioned that his office was made aware of the racist online discussion on Snapchat and initiated an investigation one week later.

Gulluni announced that he is officially pursuing criminal charges against the teens for the “hateful, racist online chat that included heinous language, threats and a mock slave auction.”

The six students are facing charges of “threat to commit a crime,” with two of them also being accused of interference with civil rights. Additionally, one student is charged with witness interference, as reported by WBTS.

Gulluni mentioned that he is unable to provide further information regarding the racist remarks made by the teenagers on Snapchat or reveal their identities due to their status as minors.

The district attorney stated that the students engaged in making racist comments, using slurs, discussing violent actions against individuals of color, and sharing offensive images and videos. Gulluni also mentioned that the teens made inappropriate jokes about placing two fellow students on a slave auction.

As highlighted by WBUR, Snapchat is designed to automatically delete content shortly after it is posted, although users have the option to save the chat to their personal accounts. During the investigation, Gulluni, as reported by WBUR, met with the victims and their families.

“Hatred and racism have no place in this community. And where this behavior becomes criminal, I will ensure that we act,” Gulluni said in a statement.

“There is no question that the alleged behavior of these six juveniles is vile, cruel, and contemptible. Seeing it, and facing the reality that these thoughts, that this ugliness, can exist within middle school students, here, in this community, in 2024 is discouraging, unsettling and deeply frustrating.”

Gulluni mentioned his efforts in establishing a department dedicated to creating a curriculum focused on combating hate and bullying in Southwick schools. Additionally, he expressed his plans to reach out to State Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s office to collaborate on implementing further initiatives to address racism within educational institutions.

“We have had conversations with leadership of the Massachusetts State Police, which recently announced a new unit called HART, which stands for Hate Crimes Awareness and Response Team,” Gulluni explained.

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“We will enlist their support and resources to jointly instruct police departments and school personnel across Western Massachusetts on best practices regarding hate crimes and bullying within schools.

“While I am optimistic that these initiatives will have a meaningful influence, I implore everyone to take their own steps to fight racism and bullying,” Gullani said in the statement, per WBTS. “We have a responsibility to call out ignorance and hate when we witness it. We have a responsibility to promote tolerance and empathy. And when we accept this duty we all have a powerful impact on our communities.”

Gullani concluded:

“I hope that our collective efforts to grow empathy, compassion and tolerance will overcome the forces of apathy, malice and intolerance. This is not an issue exclusive to a place, an age group or to a particular race. This is a universal issue that we must face as one unified group. Let’s move forward with hope, resiliency and commitment to justice.”

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