After an approximate 3-month investigation, a 14-year-old Northampton, PA student has been charged with cyber harassment and ethnic intimidation. The 14-year old took a video of a 16-year old student eating lunch and posted it on Snapchat. The 14-year old is White. The 16-year old is Black.
Northampton County District Attorney, John Morganelli, said of the video;
“I reviewed the video today and I find it to be highly offensive and reprehensible. It depicts the 16-year-old minding his own business eating chicken wings while the 14-year-old records him and narrates it by describing the scene as ‘a N-word eating chicken.’
“The video demeans the 16-year-old with numerous uses of the N-word and references to being broke and on welfare. As bad as that is, the 14-year-old published the offensive video on social media including Snapchat that was viewed by numerous students as well as the 16-year-old male, …”
However, the District Attorney did not know of the video until after the 16-year old Black student was arrested and charged with simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct. That’s because while at a football game attended by both student, the Black student retaliated by opening a can of whoop-ass on the 14-year old.
Neither teen has been publicly identified by authorities.
D.A. Morganelli will allow the 14-year-old to seek an “informal adjustment” in juvenile court. If he completes the probationary requirements, he will not be charged with the crimes.
The 16-year old Black student will also be allowed an “informal adjustment.” Morganelli said the black student had previously been the subject of discrimination from a group of students calling themselves “the rednecks.” He said he had a confederate flag thrown on him when he transferred to the school from out of state.
Penn Live reports that Morganelli came under the fire of critics defending the White student. His critics contended that the White student’s remarks are constitutionally protected free speech. Not so says the District Attorney.
“Resorting to epithets or personal abuse is not in any proper sense of communication … guarded by the Constitution, and its punishment as a criminal act raises no such question.”
The 16-year old is represented by attorney Gary Asteak, who praised Morganelli’s decision.
“Words matter. Hate speech has no place in our society, certainly not in our schools. By taking action today, the district attorney is sending a message to law enforcement and school officials they must be sensitive to this issue. That teachers and parents are responsible for teaching their children not to hate and to respect others.”
Michael Moyer, the attorney for the 14-year-old white student, is not pleased. He said that his client will agree to the informal adjustment, but he is the “true victim” in this case. According to Moyer, the 14-year old suffered a concussion and needs physical and occupational therapy.
There is nothing reported that Moyer offered any suggestions for how the 16-year old should have responded to his client’s racial harassment, demeaning, and social media humiliation.
No matter the outcome of this case, chances are that both teens are going to carry emotional scars for the rest of their lives.