Authorities have charged an Illinois teen with a hate crime after they say he placed a racist ad on Craigslist that included a photo of his Black schoolmate.
Now, the mother of the victim is pushing for harsher punishments.
The Naperville Central High School student, 14, appeareds in court early Wednesday on two counts of felony hate crime and one count of disorderly conduct, according to Naperville police.
Authorities allege the teen snapped a photo of his classmate at school, then posted a Craigslist ad featuring the image and a caption that read “Slave for sale (Naperville).” The ad also included a racial slur, police said.
Naperville Chief of Police Robert Marshall decried the post as “despicable and extremely offensive.”
“Every single person deserves the right to feel safe [and] welcome in our community,” Marshall said in a statement, adding: “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.”
The department launched an investigation Nov. 18 after learning of the racist ad and later identified the teen suspect as the person responsible.
“I’d like to express my appreciation to our school resource officer and supervisor who conducted a timely, thorough, detailed investigation,” Marshall added.
The victim’s mother has spoken out since the suspect’s arrest. Tamara Wallace said she’s “hurt” by all that’s happened, noting that the teen and her son are former friends and teammates on the school’s wrestling team.
“I’m hurt for the other child’s parents,” she told Chicago’s ABC 7. “I’m hurt for my baby, most importantly, and I’m just hurt that part of my son’s innocence is gone now.”
Wallace said she’s always showered her son with love and praise, encouraging him to love the skin he’s in. But all of that was done away with in a single post.
She’s disgusted by the act and wants the student, and anyone else involved, to be held accountable.
“I teach my kids to forgive, but never forget,” Wallace added.
On Thursday, the Naperville Community Unit School District 203 hosted a diversity and inclusion forum at City Hall. Dozens of parents, teachers, staff and students packed the room to discuss what community members call an increase in racist incidents in the Chicago-area suburb.
According to ABC 7, concerned residents also brought up the reported increase in the presence of racial slurs in some Naperville schools, particularly elementary schools.
“I think it’s very important to actually have these conversations,” said parent Temeka Booker. “They’re very, very hard conversations to have.”
Naperville schools Superintendent Dan Bridges addressed the crowd, saying the district must do more to tackle the ongoing issue of racism at its schools, adding, ““We need to be better. I will be better. We will be better.”
The meeting, which was planned prior to the reported Craigslist incident, comes just weeks after an a similar instance at a Buffalo Wild Wings last month where an African-American family said they were asked to switch seats to appease a white customer who did not “want Black people sitting near him.”
Those at Thursday’s meeting said they planned to continue discussions on combating racism.
The teen suspect is expected back in court Dec. 18
The Naperville Community Unit School District didn’t return requests for comment.
Watch more in the clip below.