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6 middle schoolers arrested on hate charges over online chat involving 'mock slave auction,' Massachusetts police say
Image Source: WCVB-TV YouTube video screenshot composite

6 middle schoolers arrested on hate charges over online chat involving 'mock slave auction,' Massachusetts police say

Massachusetts police arrested six middle school students on hate charges over an online chat where they participated in a "mock slave auction" of other students.

Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni told reporters at a media briefing that the students were charged with online bullying over the chat room that targeted two of their fellow students at Southwick Regional School.

Gulluni said the interactions were posted to the Snapchat social media app in February and involved many students who would join and leave the room.

"I intend to be very clear, hatred 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," said Gulluni.

Some of the students were formally suspended by the district on Feb. 15 and 16, one child for 25 days and another child for 45 days.

"Bullying especially when it involves race is an insidious force within a school community and within a community at large. It is also deeply damaging to victims who experience harassment, abuse and humiliation," Gulluni added.

He went on to call the behavior of the students "vile, cruel and contemptible."

Allyson Lopez, the parent of one of the children targeted in the mock slave auction, angrily denounced the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District at a meeting on March 5.

“None of you can tell my daughter what she’s been through,” Lopez said. “Don’t tell me you get it; don’t tell me the district is not racist.”

She went on to claim that none of the school administrators had apologized to her daughter.

“None of you on this panel understand because you don’t stand in [my daughter’s] shoes; you don’t stand in my shoes,” Lopez continued. “Up until today, you haven’t done anything to make it better… You still don’t get it because you’re looking at me spaced out.”

She called on Superintendent Jennifer Willard to resign over the incident.

Gulluni has touted three initiatives intended to address racist attitudes and behavior in the students at the district, including the creation of a new police unit to train police and school personnel on best practices to address bullying and racism.

"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 added.

"We have a responsibility to call out ignorance and hate when we witness it," he said. "We have a responsibility to promote tolerance and empathy. And when we accept this duty we all have a powerful impact on our communities."

Here's more about the arrests:

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