A boy at North Whidbey Middle School has been charged with committing a hate crime for repeatedly using a racial slur and assaulting a fellow student, according to court documents.
Prosecutors charged the 12-year-old Oak Harbor boy in Island County Juvenile Court with malicious harassment, which is defined as “maliciously and intentionally” causing physical injury to a person because of the perception of the person’s race.
The boy could face up to 30 days of confinement if convicted of the charge.
The victim, an African American boy, reported to police that the other boy, who is white, had been bullying him throughout the school year.
He said the boy had been calling him “the n-word,” as well as another offensive term; the victim said he didn’t report the bullying because he thought he could handle it, according to the police report.
On Feb. 1, the student reported that he and friends were walking on the track at school when the boy came up to them and called them by the racial epithet.
When the student told him to stop, the boy repeated the word over and over again and said the victim wasn’t going to do anything about it.
The victim told the boy to get away from him, but the bully got into his face, about an inch away, and said a sexualized racist insult.
The victim pushed the boy away and the boy punched him in his mouth, the police report states.
The student had to go to the hospital for stitches and to a dentist for a loose tooth.
Island County Deputy Prosecutor Tamara Fundrella said her office takes a hard line on hate crimes, which have no place in the county.
“We will be seeking to not only to punish and hold the juvenile accountable, but also to provide a path to rehabilitation,” she said in an email.
“He’s young, so there’s still time to stop this behavior once and for all,” she said.
The Oak Harbor school district reported that appropriate disciplinary action was taken as well as measures to ensure the safety of the victim.
“Student safety is our priority and violence or racial slurs of any type are unacceptable and not tolerated at any school,” Communications Officer Conor Laffey said in an email.
“Our district regularly provides reminders to parents and students to report any safety concerns using the motto ‘see something, say something.’
“In order to continue to create a healthy culture on our campuses, in addition to staff, we rely on the help of our students to report any safety concerns.
‘Whether it’s reporting incidents to teachers and administrators directly or using our 24-hour anonymous safety tip line, these communication tools help us ensure a safe learning environment at our schools.”