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St. Charles teen charged with hate crime after breakup
By Adam Kovac | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/25/2008 4:15 PM | Updated: 3/26/2008 12:10 AM

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A St. Charles East High School student was in a Kane County courtroom Tuesday, accused of scrawling a racial epithet in his former girlfriend's locker in what his attorney called a teenage spat gone awry.

The 14-year-old boy, who is white, also is charged with creating an Internet image of a black man being lynched and sharing it with other students in the computer lab at St. Charles East.

At his initial court appearance Tuesday, Judge Karen Simpson allowed the freshman to stay at home under his parents' supervision until he is due in juvenile court again May 9.

The teenager, who is not being identified because of his age, is charged with two hate crime offenses -- felonies punishable by up to five years in prison.

He also faces a pair of lesser criminal damage to property charges in the allegations, which prosecutors said took place after a breakup with a black student at the school.

Prosecutors sought to have the boy held in juvenile custody while he undergoes a psychological and social history evaluation.

Glenn Sowa, a lawyer hired by the boy's family, said the teenager is an above average student, and member of the lacrosse team and Key Club. He said his client never intended to harm anyone

"This is a 14-year-old, boyfriend-girlfriend spat gone awry," Sowa said. "It's unfortunate the racial element came to the forefront."

Police in St. Charles were called March 17 after the girl, also a 14-year-old freshman, opened her locker and found it had been broken into and the epithet written inside, prosecutors said.

The teenager also used the school computer lab to create a stick figure of a black man being hung, an image shared with other students in the class, prosecutors said.

The teenager, who was suspended from school for five days, is required to wear an electronic home monitoring device and has a restraining order barring him from contact with his ex-girlfriend.

In response to the allegations, St. Charles School District 303 issued a statement Tuesday, saying the school will design an education program to emphasize racial tolerance and understanding.

The teenager who was accused also will take part in counseling when he returns to class after spring break. Counseling also will be provided to the ex-girlfriend, to try to ensure she feels safe at school.

"We need to utilize the strength of our organization to inform and educate our students and staff about the important of how we treat each other," District 303 Superintendent Donald Schlomann said in a statement.