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Police probe racial incident at school for deaf

  • Story Highlights
  • Police: Student had "KKK," swastikas scrawled on him after horseplay escalated
  • Incident at school on Gallaudet University campus
  • Teens could face criminal charges, including hate crimes, police said
  • Gallaudet president says "game" unacceptable
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Authorities investigating a racially charged incident at a high school for deaf people say it may have started with a group of students "horsing around."

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Gallaudet University President Robert Davilla says Sunday's incident was unacceptable.

A black student was held against his will and "KKK" and swastikas were drawn on him in marker Sunday at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, Washington Metro Police Chief Cathy Lanier said.

No charges have been filed, and so no names have been released, Lanier said.

Because of the race of the victim and the symbols drawn on him, police were looking at the incident as possibly two racial groups attacking one another.

But Lanier said the incident apparently started as "horsing around in the dorm."

"My understanding is the two groups engaged in friendly horseplay," she said, but as the horseplay continued, the two groups began "to get angry with each other."

The groups had named themselves "Nazi" and "Black KKK."

Model Secondary School for the Deaf is a residential high school on the campus of Gallaudet University, a school for deaf and hard of hearing people. The high school is administered as a division of the university's Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center.

Gallaudet president Robert Davila said the game was "destructive and represented a kind of evil that existed in society."

"What we want to do is teach our young people ... that it's not acceptable regardless of the intention to have fun," he said.

The students lived in the same dormitory, and began the "game" after dinner, Davila said.

The two groups separated, Lanier said, but later, six white students and one black student took another of the black students into a dorm room and "held him there against his will."

"During the course of that time they had him held, they used markers to write 'KKK' and draw swastikas on the student," she said. Video Watch university president address the incident »

The student was released after being held for about 45 minutes. He notified dorm and school authorities, who called police.

Lanier said the police investigation is ongoing.

"The support we've received from the campus and from the school employees has been tremendous, and I think they're supporting us in making a very strong statement that this investigation may lead to charges that could have enhanced penalties for a hate crime," she said.

Davila said he did not know the victim's condition, but said he was home with his family.

"I know that the community here deeply regrets the incident that occurred, and we are here on behalf of the university to say that we are incredibly sorry for what has taken place," Davila said.

Katherine A. Jankowski, dean of the Laurent Clerc Center, said the seven students who participated in the incident were sent home.

Gallaudet provost Stephen Weiner said the school does "not tolerate any action, behavior of this type."

"We are taking action," he said. "We are looking at programs to help students understand we are a school with a diverse population."

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"This incident is intolerable," he said. "That's why the Metro police are involved. That's how serious we are about this incident."

Lanier said the students involved in the incident were between the ages of 15 and 19. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Kyra Phillips contributed to this story.

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