DA: Six Eighth Graders Face Charges Over Online Chat That Included Mock Slave Auction

Six Massachusetts eighth graders are facing criminal charges for allegedly making “hateful and racist comments” in a group chat that included threats and a simulated slave auction, according to officials.

According to the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office, the group chat began on Snapchat on February 8 and lasted into the early morning hours of February 9 among many minors in Southwick, a Springfield suburb.

Several students “expressed hateful and racist comments, including notions of violence toward people of color, racial slurs, derogatory pictures and videos, and a mock slave auction directed at two juveniles known to them,” Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said at a press briefing on Thursday, announcing the charges after a monthlong investigation.

Gulluni claimed the chat was reported to Southwick school authorities on February 9. Southwick Police were also notified. Gulluni stated that he became aware of the incident on February 15 and initiated an investigation into the use of “hate speech and race-based bullying.”

According to Gulluni, six juveniles have been charged as a result of the inquiry. He added that they are all eighth graders at Southwick Regional School, between the ages of 13 and 14.

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

The district attorney’s office reports that all six have been charged with threatening to commit a felony. According to the district attorney, one person has also been charged with interference with civil rights and witness interference, and another with interference with civil rights. According to the district attorney, their names will not be revealed because they are juveniles.

“With this, I intend to be very clear: hate and racism have no place in this community, and where this behavior becomes criminal, I will ensure that we act—and act with swift resolve, as we did here—to uncover it and bring it to the light of justice,” he said.

According to the district attorney’s office, several students, including those charged, were promptly suspended from Southwick Regional School on February 12 due to the discussion. Some pupils were formally suspended some days later, the office stated, including two for 25 days and one for 45 days.

ABC News has contacted the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District for comment on the claims.

Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Willard told Boston ABC affiliate WCVB last month that on February 12, the school district sent an email to the school community informing them of a “highly inappropriate and racist conversation on Snapchat that involved students at Southwick Regional School.”

“We can assure the community that the district does issue consequences in accordance with our school code of conduct in these types of circumstances,” she said in a statement. “As stated in our original email to the community, the district firmly believes that racism and discrimination have no place in our school community.”

A Springfield lady informed WCVB that her 13-year-old daughter was among those targeted in the alleged mock slave auction.

“If they have this level of hate in them now at the tender age of 13 and 14, it worries me,” she told the broadcaster last month. “I know this is not something we can just walk away from.”

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Jimmy Clyde
Jimmy Clyde
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