Four Arundel students charged in series of hate crimes at school

April 27, 2003|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

After months of racist and anti-Semitic threats and vandalism at South River High School, Anne Arundel County police arrested this weekend four students they said had committed hate crimes at the school.

They charged three 17-year- olds and one 18-year-old - Garth Lewis Swimm III of Davidsonville - with harassment, which the police labeled as a hate crime. The four also were charged with disrupting school activities and education.

Police said they expect to make more arrests soon.

Since December, neo-Nazi fliers have been posted inside the Edgewater school and on cars in the school parking lot, swastikas and Ku Klux Klan symbols have been spray-painted on school property, and threats have been written on walls inside the school, according to police, students and parents.

Last month, someone spray-painted on a stairwell a message threatening the lives of black students.

"You can't get more blunt than that," said 17-year-old Ashley Scott last week, explaining why she was afraid at the school. "I'm a black person, and they want me to die."

Last night, Scott's mother, Bernadette Scott, said she hoped the arrests would improve the situation at South River.

"Hopefully, this will deter other things from happening," she said.

She said the arrests also support people, such as her daughter, who have spoken publicly against the racism.

"It lets these kids know, `Yes, this is wrong,'" she said. "And it took a while for the powers that be to do something, but justice always wins out."

At a news conference this month, Anne Arundel County school officials said the racist and otherwise inflammatory acts would not be tolerated. And in a newsletter to parents and students, the school reported it had issued 24 suspensions and three expulsions in response to racist incidents.

Anne Arundel police said they have been investigating the "racial, religious or ethnic unlawful acts" since December.

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