Naperville teen charged with hate crime for Craigslist post
A 14-year-old freshman at Naperville Central High School has been charged with two counts of felony hate crime and one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct for a racist post last week on Craigslist.
The white student is accused of taking a picture of a 14-year-old black classmate and posting it with the heading "Slave for Sale (NAPERVILLE)." A second sentence in the post contains another racial slur.
DuPage County Judge Anthony Coco on Wednesday ordered the teen to have no contact with the other youth outside school. Inside school, the judge said, any contact cannot be threatening or harassing.
Authorities said the teen made the post Friday at a lunch table he shared with the black student. Charging documents say the teen, who is not being named because he is a juvenile, took the photo and then posted the ad.
Assistant State's Attorney Lee Roupas said the post was "a gross act of racism that put the victim's safety at school in question."
Defense attorney Harry Smith said Central's principal is "getting the two friends together" and coordinating an apology.
The judge ordered the teen not to use social media except if required for classes.
The teen is serving an in-school suspension, authorities said, and his next court date is Dec. 18.
"The allegations against the juvenile in this case are beyond disturbing," DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said in a written statement. "Hate crimes have no place in our society and will not be tolerated in DuPage County. Anyone, regardless of age, accused of such disgraceful actions will be charged accordingly."
"This was a despicable and extremely offensive post that is not at all reflective of the caring, welcoming community that our department serves and protects every day," Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall said. "Every single person deserves the right to feel safe and welcome in our community, and this department will continue to strive to make that a reality by thoroughly investigating any allegations of hate crimes and bringing those found responsible to justice."
In response to the post, Naperville Unit District 203 officials said they are increasing their focus on educating students about the benefits of diversity and the pitfalls of obvious and hidden bias.
The district also shows all students a video about digital citizenship and requires students to sign a student handbook, which is reviewed yearly, to certify that they have read and understand discipline policies.
Even before news of the Craigslist post broke, the district had scheduled two community forums for Thursday on implicit bias.
"Racism is never acceptable at Naperville 203," Superintendent Dan Bridges said late Tuesday in an email sent to district residents. "We are committed to continuing to foster meaningful conversations with our students, and the community around us, through our deep equity work lead by Dr. Rakeda Leaks."
Leaks is the district's executive director of diversity and inclusion, and she's set to moderate Thursday's forums. The sessions, part of the district's Focus 203 community engagement series, are planned for 9 a.m. in rooms A and B at the Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St., and 7 p.m. in the learning commons at Naperville North High School, 899 Mill St.
"We want to send a strong message that racism, discrimination and intolerance are not tolerated," school board President Kristin Fitzgerald said. The post, she said, "is not a representation of our schools or our district."
The Naperville Central case comes just weeks after Naperville became the focus of national news when a multiracial group of 18 was asked to change its seats at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant because employees said a couple with known racist views did not want to sit next to them.
Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, in a written statement released Wednesday, said "these types of acts happen throughout the country, many times going unreported."
"As a well-respected city, the spotlight shines brighter on us -- and when it does, we demonstrate how to respond by addressing it head-on, openly, and honestly," Chirico said.
"This is not a time to turn a blind eye. Instead, we need to continue and amplify the courageous conversations on these topics that have already begun," he said. "Through the work of Naperville Neighbors United, started by my colleague Councilman Benny White, we're hearing raw, honest dialogue take place on the topics of equality, inclusion and race. I applaud those efforts and encourage all of you to take part in these events and call out acts of racism when you see or hear them taking place."
Chirico said he wants Naperville to remain known as a caring, inclusive, welcoming place, "not as a place where hate lives."
"Naperville needs to showcase our leadership in speaking out against racism and make it known that our legacy is one of diversity, inclusion and civility," he said, "not hate."