Screenshots provided to Colorado Community Media illustrate some of the language used in a private Castle Rock Middle School Snapchat group. CCM has digitally altered the content to conceal user identity and inappropriate language. (SCREENSHOT)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

A group chat involving Castle Rock Middle School students evolved into bullying with racist slurs and threats that targeted Black and biracial students for months.

Lacey Ganzy told Colorado Community Media that her son, Jeramiah, an eighth grader at the school, was invited by other students to a student group chat on Snapchat in February. Soon after, he received frequent messages using the N-word. Two students threatened violence against Black people.

In addition to the group chat, Jeramiah said a school administrator earlier questioned him recently about a stolen water bottle, insinuating Jeramiah couldn’t afford one of his own. His mother considers the insinuation to be racial profiling. Jeramiah added in an interview that students have called him a monkey and the N-word at school. 

The messages in the group were bigoted, including one where a student said “bring back the Holocaust,” and another threatening violence. Screenshots of the messages were provided to Colorado Community Media by Ganzy. 

The Douglas County School District has not yet responded to a call seeking comment about the threats.

Ganzy said Jeramiah reported his experiences with racism to the district through a feedback form on its website on March 10, but did not get a response. 

Weeks later, on April 19, Ganzy learned that her son was being bullied, including what she was told was near-daily racism. She reported it to Castle Rock Middle School and Douglas County School District administrators the next day. She also reported it to the Castle Rock Police Department.

Ganzy provided recordings of conversations between her and district administrators that took place on April 20. According to the recording, the student in the group chat who advocated for a second Holocaust received a five-day suspension. A second student, who threatened to shoot Black people, had not been suspended as of April 25

Deputy Superintendent Danelle Hiatt is the administrator in the recording, according to Ganzy. Hiatt told Ganzy in the meeting that the district would be addressing the issue. Hiatt also apologized.

“I’m just really disgusted by what you’ve shown me on your phone about the behavior of our students and it is not OK,” Hiatt said on the recording. 

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Meanwhile, Ganzy has not allowed Jeramiah to go to school since April 20, fearing for his safety.

“He’s the victim, but he’s the one not in school,” she said. “He’s being robbed of his education.”

Ganzy added that she’s concerned that Jeramiah’s experience shows the district is failing to create a safe environment for all students and that it needs to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.

“They consider hate crimes the same as bullying in every handbook in Douglas County,” she said. 

The Douglas County School District is discussing the proposed equity policy during a special meeting Tuesday night. The policy has been a source of controversy for the district since 2020.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.