Charlottesville Schools Close Over Threats Of Violence Against Students Of Color

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Thousands of students in Charlottesville, Virginia, remained at home for the second day in a row Friday as police continued to investigate an online threat made against one of the division's schools. A threat of racial violence closed all Charlottesville public schools both Thursday and Friday and led police to arrest and charge a minor suspected to be connected to the online threat.

"We would like to acknowledge and condemn the fact that this threat was racially charged," a statement from Charlottesville City Schools read. "We do not tolerate hate or racism. The entire staff and School Board stand in solidarity with our students of color — and with people who have been singled out for reasons such as religion or ethnicity or sexual identity in other vile threats made across the country or around the world. We are in this together, and a threat against one is a threat against all."

The Charlottesville Police Department announced Friday afternoon that it had arrested and charged a 17-year-old male suspect earlier in the day with charges of harassment by computer and threats to commit serious bodily harm to persons on school property. It was unclear at the time if the minor charged by police was a student at any of the education facilities within Charlottesville City Schools.

According to the Charlottesville Police Department, law enforcement officials were "alerted to an online threat containing biased-based language targeting specific ethnic groups within Charlottesville High School" on Wednesday afternoon and immediately opened an investigation. In light of the threat, officials at Charlottesville City Schools closed all of the schools within their division on Thursday and Friday, noting in a message to families and staff that "the safety of out staff and students is our first priority."

Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall M. Brackney told reporters Friday that the threat in question contained "vile, racially-charged language which targeted African American and Hispanic students" and had been circulating 4chan, an online message board reported to be frequented by white supremacists. While neither police nor Charlottesville City Schools have disclosed the full nature of the threat, The Richmond Times Dispatch has reported that the post warned Charlottesville High School's white students to stay home, threatening a school shooting as a means of performing "an ethnic cleansing." According to the paper, the poster claimed to be student at Charlottesville High School.

On Friday, however, Charlottesville police said the alleged suspect was not a student at Charlottesville High School. Police officials also said they believed the suspect had acted alone in making the threat, which they condemned as an act of hate and intolerance.

"Hate is not welcomed in Charlottesville," Brackney told reporters Friday. "Violence is not welcomed in Charlottesville. Intolerance is not welcomed in Charlottesville. And in Charlottesville and around the globe we stand firmly in stating, there are not very fine people on both sides of this issue."

Although Brackney did not mention the president by name, her remarks referenced comments Donald Trump made in August 2017 after a white nationalist rally held in Charlottesville ended in violence that left one person dead. President Trump routinely defended the white nationalists responsible for the deadly Unite the Right rally, claiming, "You had people that were very fine people on both sides."

Classes will resume at all Charlottesville City Schools on Monday.