A group of white students at Stone High School, including a member of the football team, are accused of putting a noose around a black player’s neck, the head of the Mississippi NAACP said Monday.
Derrick Johnson, state NAACP president, who said he called a news conference in Wiggins to ensure the attack wasn’t “swept under the rug.” Neither the student assaulted nor the accused were identified.
“Individuals took the liberty to lasso a rope around his neck and pull the noose tight,” he said. He said four students took part, and the football coach confirmed one was a player.
But he said racial tension has been building since some of the players “came to school brandishing Confederate flags from their vehicles. Several people said there were YouTube videos of the flag-waving.
Johnson said he didn’t know if that was against school rules but “it should be against cultural norms to brandish hate symbols on anybody.”
He said his office has asked the FBI to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
The school district and the Stone County Sheriff’s Office have not taken any action against the accused, he said, and 20 students have been interviewed.
Football coach John Feaster, who is black, said Monday the accused player was kicked off the team as soon as school officials were able to pinpoint who was involved. The player also did not play in Friday’s game, he said.
Contrary to earlier reports, he said the culprit was not a prominent member of the team.
“It’s sad, there aren’t any winners or losers,” said Feaster, who paused to pray before talking. “It just kicks up a lot of the past.”
He said he feels “terrible” for the victim, “a tough kid who’s hanging in there.”
“He knows I love him and his teammates love him and the coaching staff loves him and he isn’t going to be treated any differently. He’s one of my favorite kids on this team.”
The victim has continued to go to school and play football since the Oct. 13 incident, as have the others.
Johnson said the district calls for any student who assaults another student to be expelled.
“No child should be in fear of going to school,” Johnson said. “No child should be walking down the hall going to the locker room and be accosted with a noose.
“This is 2016, not 1916.”
He said the boy’s mother went to the sheriff’s office to file charges, but was advised not to by a deputy who said she might “face intimidation” if she did. Johnson said the father of one of the accused students is a former law enforcement officer.
“These type of incidents should not be tolerated,” he said. “These type of incidents should not be swept under the rug.
“Wiggins has always been a trouble spot. It’s a small knit community of African Americans. There’s always been fear.”
A spokeswoman at the Stone County Sheriff’s Office said the earliest Sheriff Mike Farmer could talk about the incident would be Tuesday morning.
Stone County Superintendent Inita Owen released a statement Monday evening.
“I will not comment on this matter at this time, nor will I address a matter of student discipline in the press. I can assure everyone that the Stone County School District takes all matters involving students very seriously and will do everything within its power to make sure that all policies and procedures were adhered to and that all of its students have a safe place to receive an education.”