The Mississippi NAACP chapter calls for a federal probe into an alleged racially charged incident where a group of White high school football players are accused of hanging and pulling a noose around a Black teammate’s neck, The Washington Post reports.
“No child should be walking down the hall or in a locker room and be accosted with a noose around their neck. This is 2016, not 1916. This is America. This is a place where children should go to school and feel safe in their environment,” Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi chapter, said during a news conference, writes the news outlet.
According to Johnson and the unnamed victim’s family, as many as four students at Stone High School in Wiggins, Mississippi, placed a noose around the youth’s neck in the school’s locker room ahead of practice on October 13.
The alleged victim, a sophomore, was “terrified” but physically unharmed, Johnson told ESPN. The accused students are under the age of 17, and any charges will be filed in juvenile court, writes The Post.
Johnson says the accused students should be charged as adults. The behavior was not indicative of an isolated incident he said. “These same individuals came to school earlier this year brandishing Confederate flags on their vehicles,” Johnson continued.
First year head football coach John Feaster told ESPN he enforced disciplinary action and swiftly reported the incident to school officials. But, Feaster says it was one individual, not a group of students.
“The individual that was responsible hasn’t been with our team since the incident. I just want it understood, it could have been the biggest superstar and he would have been gone. I don’t care who it is–if you do something like that, you can’t be part of our team,” Feaster told ESPN.
Hollis and Stacey Payton, parents of the alleged victim, say the Stone County Sheriff’s Department discouraged them from filing a police report because one of the accused student’s father formerly worked in law enforcement, but police dispute that claim, the Post reports.
Capt. Ray Boggs, who is also Black, said he only wanted the Paytons to be sure; filing a report may lead to more resentment among the students, Boggs told the Post.
According to Johnson, the Paytons were unaware of any disciplinary action taken against the accusers. He says the school should take further action and expel the students involved.
“Allowing students to commit blatant hate crimes without severe consequences sends a message to students that their safety and well-being are not valuable enough to be protected,” the NAACP said in written statement Monday.
According to ESPN, superintendent Inita Owen, and school board attorney Sean Courtney weren’t immediately available for comment.