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Parents upset with handling of 'racially charged' chat among students

Police are investigating a conversation on the app Kik among students from Upton Middle School that allegedly included "racially charged" comments.

The St. Joseph Department of Public Safety issued a press release about the incident on Thursday and says it is investigating it. The department says no specific threats were made and no weapons were mentioned.

ABC57's Alexandra Koehn received screenshots of the group message/chat.

Parent Toni Meridy, who has students at Upton Middle School, says a group of white students started the group messaging/chat.

"The name of the group was KKK kill [expletive deleted] and then they changed it to KKK Kill all [expletive deleted]. And under that the kids' text it says 'F the black race' and they went on to have smiley faces, 'I'm going to cry,' laugh out loud," said Toni.

Meridy says the students in the group chat eventually added an African American student to the group who is friends with her son.

“The initial victim screenshotted the images from the application Kik because they added him to the group so he could visibly actually see the threat, because kill is a threat," said Toni.

Toni and her husband Steve Meridy say their 8th grade son saw the screen shots and was frantic. He was concerned over his safety at school.

“Kill all negroes with an S that’s plural. That means everybody. And so the fact they are nonchalant in their approach and we weren’t notified and I had to hear about it from my son is very appalling," said Steve.

Steve and Toni say the school didn't act quickly.

On Thursday, Upton Middle School Principal Chad Mandarino released a statement to ABC57.

On Monday evening at between 9:35 P.M.-10:14 P.M. a small group of students made very inappropriate racial comments on a social media site called “KiK’.  This was done on a privately owned device.  A student made our Dean of Students aware of the comments; it was investigated immediately, and then turned over to the authorities who we continue to cooperate with.  As always safety and security of all of our students at Upton Middle School is our #1 concern.  

Toni says this was more than just racial comments.

"Would definitely call it a hate crime. Regardless of the youth’s response on just joking, that’s hate," said Toni. “My son was beyond offended and he was appalled that there was no disciplinary action and that he had to face it daily and that no one in his words ‘was fighting for him.’

Toni and Steve say their son has been scared to go to school. He has been to basketball tryouts with some of the students said to be involved.

“I don’t care if they’ve never had a record, the guy that was in south Carolina and did that shooting, his record was clean. So don’t make those type of calls. And don’t just brush stuff to the side.”

The Civil Rights Commission and the president of the NAACP are getting involved regarding how police and school officials are handling this investigation.

 “I think one of the things that we are asking for or that we are demanding right now is that those two kids be removed from school until an investigation has been completed," said Reverend Maurice Mcafee, President of the NAACP.

The prosecutor's office has not responded about whether the middle school students will face charges.

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