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Southwick students face criminal charges following investigation into 'vile' social media posts

Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni at a press conference on March 14, 2024 giving updates on the concluded investigation into a racist incident involving a group of 8th graders at Southwick Regional School.
Nirvani Williams
/
NEPM
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni at a press conference on March 14, 2024 giving updates on the concluded investigation into a racist incident involving a group of 8th graders at Southwick Regional School.

The Hampden District Attorney's office announced Thursday that six 8th graders from Southwick Regional School will face criminal charges. This comes a month after the students allegedly created an online group chat facilitating a mock slave auction.

Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said the 13 to 14 year-olds, who cannot be identified, are being charged with interference with civil rights, threat to commit a crime, and witness interference.

Gulluni said he met with the victims including the Lopez family and also with the families of the six 8th graders facing criminal charges. Allyson Lopez, the mother of one of the victims, has been vocal about the impact this incident has had on her daughter.

"There is no question that the alleged behavior in this case of these six juveniles is vile, cruel and contemptible,” Gulluni said. “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 also said he is looking at a series of anti-racist measures following this racist incident. Gulluni said he's creating a unit that will deliver an anti-hate and anti-bullying curriculum to the Southwick school community. Additionally, he said he's been in contact with Attorney General Andrea Campbell's office to create specific programs to address racism in schools.

"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 said. “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."

A date for the 6 students to appear in the Springfield Juvenile Court hasn't been announced yet.

Administrators from the Southwick-Tolland-Granville school district did not respond to our request for an interview.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.