Six Middle Schoolers Have Been Charged With Hate Crimes

(NationalUSNews.com) — On Thursday, March 14, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni made a public statement regarding six eighth graders in Southwick, Massachusetts, who are being charged with threats to commit a crime in connection to a “mock slave auction” held on Snapchat late on the evening of February 8 and the early morning of February 9. As they are all minors, their names have not been released. Two of them are additionally being charged with interference with civil rights, and one is facing a charge for witness interference. The group chat apparently targeted two classmates.

The Snapchat group was reported to the school on February 9, and all those involved were immediately suspended from Southwick Regional School. The superintendent of schools, Jennifer Willard, sent out an email on February 12 to inform families about the inappropriate Snapchat incident, and to affirm that the district does not tolerate racism and discrimination. However, the Greater Springfield NAACP has filed a complaint regarding the state education officials’ handling of the situation.

Gulluni says that since the incident came to light, he has spoken with representatives of the NAACP several times. He publicly denounced the “vile, cruel and contemptible” behavior of the young Snapchat participants. He added that racism and hatred have no place in their community and that when such attitudes become criminal actions, they will be seeking swift justice. While originally reported to the Southwick Police and Massachusetts State Police, the matter is now being handled by Gulluni’s office.

District Attorney Gulluni has proposed three initiatives to take a proactive approach to preventing future incidents like this. His office will be working to increase efforts to distribute informational materials about hate and bullying. They will also be cooperating with Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s office in order to create a program specifically designed to combat racism and bullying in schools. Gulluni also discussed working with the state police to educate local school personnel and law enforcement about bullying in schools and hate crimes. He also condemned social media for worsening bullying among children.

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