Naperville hosts anti-hate forums after student charged with hate crime

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. — The suburban Naperville community came together for an anti-hate forum Thursday evening after two racially charged incidents.

A student at Naperville Central High School was charged with felony hate crime after allegedly posting a racist ad to Craigslist. The 14-year-old was accused of posting a picture of a black student on Craigslist, with the caption “Slave For Sale” followed by a racial slur.

At the forum, members of the community said they're not a district that will let a teachable moment go to waste. Thursday's forum was Naperville's second meeting of the day on what its school superintendent describes as a reprehensible act.

“Racism, hatred, discrimination in any way, in any place, is not acceptable," District 203 Supt. Dan Bridges said.

Earlier on Wednesday at the first forum, nearly 100 people attended to discuss topics of race and implicit bias. 

 "I had a discussion with my 10-year-old and all she could do was cry," Latasha Stovall said. "It's very disturbing, I never thought I'd have to have these conversations with my daughter with my children."

She said the incident, and others, have taken a toll on on everyone.

"I haven’t experienced a lot of bias in my life but just want to make sure that moving forward i’m not only not racist but also doing everything i can to help those who are experiencing racism," Hailey Lottig said.

The hate crime charges against the student were discussed. Bridges also attended the forum.

"Hatred  and racism have really showed its face in recent days so its really important right now for us to listen to our community about the experiences they have in our school and throughout out community," he said.

The incident at the school comes weeks after a racist incident at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Naperville, where a waiter asked a group to change tables because a patron didn't want to sit next to black people.

The restaurant fired two employees involved.

Attendees at the anti-hate forum said they're glad the community is addressing it.

"I am very ecstatic and elated that our community is involved and that we are having these conversations and that actions are being taken to correct the things that are happening," said Stovall.

The 14-year-old who was charged is due back in court next month.

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