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Mississippi High School Students Accost Black Student with Noose Around His Neck

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A Black high school student in Wiggins, Mississippi has been the victim of what the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP demands be investigated as a federal hate crime.

The victim, who is a member of the Stone High School football team, was at a break during a football practice when four white students reportedly accosted him, put a noose around his neck and pulled it backwards.

According to WLOX, a local CBS affiliate in Biloxi, the NAACP said the perpetrators will not be expelled, and that school administrators did not even report the incident.

“They failed to protect this student throughout this ordeal. 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,” reads an NAACP news release.

Derrick Johnson, the Mississippi NAACP president, says the student’s mother, Stacey Patton, was “discouraged” from filing charges, as one of the alleged attackers’ father is a member of law enforcement. He also said that while the victim was not physically harmed, the incident understandably has done emotional and mental harm, leaving the child “terrified.”

“This is 2016, not 1916. This is America. This is a place where children should go to school and feel safe in their environment,” said Johnson during a press conference in Wiggins on Monday, Oct. 24. “No child should be walking down the hall or in a locker room and be accosted with a noose around their neck.”

The victimized student involved was unnamed but his parents, Hollis and Stacey Payton, were present. They did not speak during the press conference.

Other parents and citizens of Wiggins addressed their concerns at the press conference. Carissa Bolden, who is the mother of a middle school student, attended the NAACP press conference and said white students have been flying both the Confederate flag and/or the Mississippi flag from their vehicles. The upper left corner of the Mississippi flag, which has been in use since 1894, has the Confederate battle flag, which is a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars. While Mississippi still keeps  remnants of the Confederate flag in the state flag, other states, such as Georgia, have since removed it.

Bolden strongly feels that a reverence and acceptance of Confederate-era symbols allows racist actions like the noose incident to be possible.

“I feel like it escalated from them allowing kids to bring Confederate flags” to school, Bolden shared at the press conference.

Mississippi, like other Southern states, has a long history of racism and racial division — from slavery to the Civil War,  the Confederacy, Jim Crow and beyond.

Stone High School’s football coach, John Feaster, is the school’s first ever Black coach. He told the Sun Herald that since school officials determined who was involved, a player was kicked off the team. Feaster said he feels “terrible” for the victim, who he calls “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,” Feaster said to the Sun Herald. “He’s one of my favorite kids on this team.”

Johnson said the Paytons have not received any official information regarding punishment from school officials. However, Johnson did say that school district policy calls for immediate expulsion of students who commit assault.

Johnson says he wants the perpetrating teens to be charged as adults, and Mississippi law allows this in some cases for children who are between the ages of 13 and 18. As an example, Johnson explained that young people from Mississippi’s Rankin County were prosecuted in 2012 for hate crimes. As most of the people involved were charged as adults, he used this to show what federal involvement in this case could bring.

“There is absolutely a role for federal law enforcement,” Johnson said.

The Stone County Schools Superintendent, Inita Owen, said in a statement to WLOX that she would not “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,” Owen said.

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