3 Maryland middle schoolers charged with hate crimes after displaying swastikas, officials say

HUNTINGTOWN, Md. (AP) — Three middle schoolers from southern Maryland have been charged with hate crimes after they displayed swastikas, performed Nazi salutes and made derogatory remarks about a classmate’s religion, according to county prosecutors.

Officials with the Calvert County State’s Attorney’s Office said the harassment began in December and the students refused to stop despite repeated requests. The victim ultimately reported the behavior to Maryland State Police, which investigated and filed charges against the students.

The defendants, all 13, are students at Plum Point Middle School in Calvert County, which serves students in sixth through eighth grades and is located about 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) southeast of Washington, D.C. Their names are being withheld because they’re underage.

Officials said the charges will be forwarded to the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services for appropriate action.

Prosecutors announced the charges in a news release last week. They didn’t elaborate on the alleged derogatory remarks.

“Maryland was founded on the principle of religious toleration,” State’s Attorney Robert Harvey said in a statement. “It is frankly astonishing that nearly 400 years later some people continue to persecute others based upon their religion.”

Calvert County Public Schools officials didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment Monday.

The school system’s website includes a statement on how it handles allegations of racism and other forms of discrimination.

“Calvert County Public Schools explicitly denounces racism, bullying, discrimination, white supremacy, hate, and racial inequity in any form within our school community,” the statement says.

A report released in March 2023 by the Anti-Defamation League found that antisemitic incidents in Maryland had nearly doubled over the past year. Similar instances of antisemitism also have increased nationally in recent years.

In response to the 2023 report, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore called the increase “absolutely unacceptable.”

“I want everyone in Maryland to hear me clearly — hate has no home in our state,” he said in a statement at the time. “I refuse to allow these alarming actions to go unnoticed.”

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