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Three Maryland middle schoolers are charged with a hate crime for social media threats aimed at Black students

By Amy Simonson, CNN

Three Maryland middle schoolers have been charged as juveniles with a hate crime after threatening Middletown Middle School’s Black students, ​a spokesperson for the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) ​told CNN Thursday.

FCSO ​deputies and school resource officers responded to the school Wednesday after social media threats posted on Instagram and Snapchat ​targeting Black students ​at the school were posted, according to ​FCSO spokesperson Todd Wivell in an interview with CNN.

According to Wivell, ​all three of the students who were charged are White, and in addition to the ​hate crime charge, one of the three was also charged as a juvenile with ​possession of a firearm by a minor.

“In coordination with Frederick County Public School Officials, FCSO deputies assisted school administrators in immediately identifying multiple suspects and took the proper steps to ensure the school and Middletown community was safe,” a statement ​released Wednesday by FCSO said.

Law enforcement officials discovered pictures of the suspects with weapons and racist remarks, according to the statement.

“Deputies privately interviewed each student involved along with their parent and/or guardian,” the statement said. “Furthermore, deputies conducted searches of the involved students’ bedrooms and accounted for all firearms.”

FCSO ​said in its Wednesday press release that ​”several​” of the firearms pictured were fake.

According to the statement, the students voluntarily gave their cell phones to deputies who discovered that the pictures were taken in January or February and later shared on social media.

FCSO, in consultation with the State’s Attorney’s Office Juvenile Division, is asking for the community’s help to determine if ​any students received one of the photos from any of the students pictured.

​The names of the three students charged have not been released, but the sheriff’s office said that it would confirm with anyone who believes they may have received these photos.

“This is an ongoing investigation that has the possibility of resulting in additional charges as well as additional suspects who may be charged,” Wivell said.

Wivell said the students are prohibited from entering the campus until the investigation is complete.

In a statement emailed to CNN the Frederick County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Mike Markoe said, “It has been an extremely painful 48 hours for the Frederick County community, particularly for our Black/Brown community members. The appalling social media post containing hate speech and the threat of violence toward Black students has frightened, saddened and angered our entire community. This behavior by a few is not representative of the community that we aspire to be and become.”

Markoe said that in addition to facing charges by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, FCPS will be administering disciplinary consequences to the students.

“FCPS will respond to hate speech, threats of violence and discrimination with severe disciplinary consequences,” Markoe said.

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