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Traverse City students will not face criminal charges for racist group chat

"Texting Congress 1" by afagen is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Traverse City students who participated in a racist social media group chat won’t be criminally charged.

In late April, local authorities began investigating a Snapchat group titled “slave trade.”

That’s where some high school students in Traverse City pretended to place bids on people of color … including their classmates. 

On Wednesday, Grand Traverse County prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg announced the end of their investigation. 

They found that the offending students didn’t violate any laws. 

Moeggenberg says because the teens didn’t want anyone else to see the chat, their speech is protected by the first amendment.

“It’s certainly speech we don't approve of, and really, frankly, shocking, but it's protected speech in a private group," said Moeggenberg. "Any of the criminal statutes, they have to show intent to either cause fear, to make someone feel threatened, intimidated, things like that. And it just wasn't there.”

The prosecutor’s office is referring the students to a juvenile justice diversion program for counseling and empathy training.