An 8-year-old Black boy suffered abrasions after other children wrapped a tent strap around his neck at a seven-week summer camp in Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Officials said that on July 29, two white boys, ages 8 and 9, wrapped a tent strap around the boy’s neck during camp at the Chilmark Community Center. The boys were in the same group at the camp, which features activities like tennis and sailing, drama and arts and crafts.
The boys can’t be held criminally liable due to a reform bill that raised the age of culpability to 12 from seven, officials said, adding that they’ve offered assistance to the victim’s family.
“We’ve offered any assistance to the family,” Chilmark Police Chief Jonathan Klaren told WHDH.
Police have not launched a criminal investigation into the incident. Other than the abrasions, the boy was not otherwise physically harmed. None of the children or their families have been publicly identified.
Community members said officials initially weren’t forthcoming about what happened at the camp for several days after the incident and that rumors swirled about what happened until Jeff Herman, president of the Chilmark Town Affairs Council made a statement about what had transpired, calling it “traumatic.”
The incident is under investigation by the camp and the Martha’s Vineyard Chapter of the NAACP. The Chilmark select board issued a statement about the incident, which took place at the city-owned community center.
“As a community we abhor violence or discrimination of any kind,” the statement said. “We are deeply troubled by the incident involving children ages 8 and 9 which occurred on July 29 at the summer camp run by the Chilmark community center, a private 501 (c)(3) on town-owned land.”
Arthur Hardy-Doubleday, president of the local NAACP chapter, said in a statement, “This event reminds us that while the Island may have a reputation as a racial utopia, we are far from it. Incidents like this cannot be ignored,” He continued, “Pending the result of the investigation, I would ask the children and their parents to be held accountable for this reprehensible event.”
Chief Klaren told WHDH, “We certainly hope the young boy is able to enjoy himself at camp or around town and on the island, but that’s the extent of our involvement, offering our assistance when we can.”
A 2018 state criminal justice reform bill increased the age of criminal responsibility from 7 to 12.
Community members protested outside of the community center earlier this week and called for accountability. Some blamed the children’s parents for what happened.
“The parents are the ones we should be looking at,” resident Andrew Barrows said. “Where are they hearing that behavior from?”