6 Massachusetts teens charged in racial bullying incident with mock slave auction on Snapchat

Six juveniles in Massachusetts were charged in a racial online bullying incident that involved "heinous" language, threats of "violence toward people of color" and a mock slave auction, the district attorney for Hampden County said.

Students from Southwick, about 104 miles southwest of Boston, allegedly participated in a "hateful, racist online" Snapchat discussion between Feb. 8 and Feb. 9, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said in a statement on Facebook.

Gulluni said he became aware of the incident on Feb. 15 and immediately called on the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit to investigate.

On Thursday, at the conclusion of the investigation, the district attorney authorized members of the Detective Unit and the Chief of the Juvenile Court Unit to pursue criminal charges against the juveniles.

All six were charged with threat to commit a crime, the district attorney said. Two of those juveniles were also charged with interference with civil rights, and one of the two was additionally charged with witness interference.

"Hatred and racism have no place in this community. And where this behavior becomes criminal, I will ensure that we act, and act with swift resolve, as we did here, to uncover it and bring it to the light of justice," Gulluni said. "There is no question that the alleged behavior of these six juveniles is vile, cruel, and contemptible."

Gulluni said he has met personally with the victims and their families.

"As I have described, through the work of my office’s investigators, and the work in court yet to come, we intend to appropriately punish those whose alleged behavior displayed a capacity for such hatred and cruelty and, ultimately, amounted to chargeable criminal conduct," he said.

The chat was created by a group of 8th-grade students from Southwick Regional School, Gulluni said. The discussion involved some of the juveniles expressing "hateful and racist comments, including notions of violence toward people of color, racial slurs, derogatory pictures and videos, and a mock slave auction directed at two particular juveniles," he said.

On Feb. 9, the existence of the chat and some of its language was reported to school authorities.

Several students involved, including the six who were charged, were suspended as an emergency removal, per state law, on Feb. 12, according to the district attorney. Three days later, several students were formally suspended including two for 25 days and one for 45 days, he said.

The school district did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

The district attorney initiated forward-looking steps to "prevent future harm, encourage empathy, and build stronger communities free of hate."

They include a curriculum around hate and bullying being delivered to the Southwick school community and a partnership with the attorney general's office to create a program that addresses and remediates the harmful forces of bigotry, racism and bullying in schools.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com