Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Says Three Middletown Middle School Students Are Facing Hate Crime Charges

Middletown Middle School

They allegedly posted hateful messages against Black students on social media.

Frederick, Md. (KM) – Three students at Middletown Middle School are facing hate crime charges for making a threat on social media against Black students at their school. That announcement was made by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office during a Thursday afternoon news conference. “It’s a significant charge,” says Lt. Jason Deater whose the commander of the Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers. “In my career–I’ve been here over 19 years–and I’ve only really seen a hate crime charge be charged one or two times.”

He says one of the students is also charged with being a minor in possession of a handgun.

The students are all 8th graders and under the age of 16, Lt. Deater says.

On Wednesday at around 9:00 AM, the Sheriff’s Office says deputies and school resource officers were dispatched to Middletown Middle School for a social media threat made against the Black Students at the school. With the help of school administrators, they identified three students who underwent interviews, along with their parents and/or guardians.

Investigators searched the students’ bedrooms. The students also voluntarily surrendered their cell phones. Deputies forensically downloaded the material from the  phones.  It is currently under review.

“This investigation is still ongoing. We still have a lot to cover,”: says Lt. Deater. “We have additional students that may have received these messages directly from the students that we are holding responsible today that we need to interview.”

The students have been released to the custody of their parents “The Middletown Middle students identified in the posts are not allowed on school property or school premises at this time,” says Dr. Eric Louers-Phillips, the School System’s Executive Director of Public Affairs. “Disciplinary actions from FCPS will be forthcoming pending the completion of the investigation by our Sheriff’s Office.”

He also said this type of behavior will not be tolerated in Frederick County Public Schools. “We know that while there was no immediate threat and students remained in school yesterday {Wed}, the posting of those images and the language found in those images caused harm.   They caused our students and staff, and the families of students to feel unsafe, and it is unacceptable.”

Also at the news conference, Sheriff Chuck Jenkins strongly urged students and their parents to stop posting and re-posting information about this threat over social media. “So I would also ask the parents and students not to post the names or any other personal information involved, either the victims or the ones responsible,” he said. “Again, this is only fueling the anxiety within Middletown.”

And he also said parents should monitor what their children post on social media, and don’t be afraid to take away their kids’ cell phones and other electronics. “I’m calling on the Board of Education today to consider policy to prohibit or heavily restrict cell phones and electronic devices in the schools or in the classroom during the school day,” he said. “I think that would be a great start in trying  to reel some of this in.”

Last week, the Sheriff’s Office was called to Urbana High where a student brought bleach into school to make mustard gas as part of a Tik Tok challenge. Also, deputies were dispatched to Ballenger Creek Middle School where a chemical irritant was released into the air.

By Kevin McManus