We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Stone County High School in Wiggins, Mississippi. AP Photo/Max Becherer

Police investigate after black high school student allegedly had noose tied around his neck

The student said as many as four white students put a noose around his neck during football practice.

STONE HIGH SCHOOL’S football team was making a name for itself as the Tomcats turned around years of mediocrity with a winning season under the school’s first-year coach.

But now the south Mississippi school’s football programme is known for something else – a black junior varsity player who says as many as four white students put a noose around his neck during an 13 October football practice.

At a news conference yesterday, the Mississippi NAACP demanded a federal hate crime investigation.

“No child should be walking down the hall or in a locker room and be accosted with a noose around their neck,” state NAACP President Derrick Johnson said during a news conference in Wiggins.

This is 2016, not 1916. This is America. This is a place where children should go to school and feel safe in their environment.

Hollis and Stacey Payton, parents of the alleged victim, attended the news conference but didn’t speak. Their son, an unnamed sophomore, wasn’t present.

The NAACP said the incident happened during a break in football practice and that the noose was “yanked backward” while on the student’s neck.

Noose Mississippi Derrick Johnson, left, president of the Mississippi NAACP, center left, talks to the media on behalf of Stacey Payton, center right, and Hollis Payton, behind his wife Stacey. Max Becherer / AP Max Becherer / AP / AP

Johnson wouldn’t say whether the noose left marks. State NAACP spokeswoman Ayana Kinnel said the family indicated the student returned to practice after the incident.

Stone High has about 800 students, about a quarter of whom are black, according to state figures. The school is the only public high school in the 18,000-resident county.

Racial division

Mississippi has struggled with a history of racial division. It is the last state that still incorporates the Confederate battle emblem in its state flag.

In 2014, two out-of-state students at the University of Mississippi placed a noose on the campus’ statue of James Meredith, the black student who integrated Ole Miss in 1962.

Both pleaded guilty to using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students and employees. Neither attends the school anymore.

Names of the students alleged to have assaulted the Paytons’ son weren’t immediately released.

Stone County Sheriff’s Captain Ray Boggs said officials believe something close to what the Paytons described did happen and he’s still investigating.

Noose Mississippi Captain Ray Boggs, of the Stone County Sheriff's Department, speaks in his office. Max Becherer Max Becherer

He said all the students involved are younger than 17 and he expects any charges would be filed in youth court, where records are closed to the public.

“It’s probably one of the hardest cases I’ll ever handle in my career, because of the nature of it,” said Boggs, who is black.

Have I ever had to deal with something like this? No, not from a high school.

Johnson said he wants the teenagers charged as adults, as Mississippi law allows in some cases for children older than 13 and younger than 18.

Johnson cited federal prosecutions of young people from Rankin County for hate crimes following the 2011 death of a man run down in the parking lot of Jackson motel as an example of what federal involvement could bring. Most of those people were charged as adults.

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

CORRECTION APTOPIX Noose Mississippi Max Becherer / AP Photo Max Becherer / AP Photo / AP Photo

Former police officer

Johnson said Stacey Payton was advised against filing a police report because the father of one of the alleged assailants is a former law enforcement officer.

Boggs said he talked to Stacey Payton and that’s not true. He said he told her that pursuing criminal charges could result in hard feelings among students that could make her son’s life more difficult at school.

Stone County Superintendent Inita Owen, in a statement to WLOX-TV, said she wouldn’t “address a matter of student discipline in the press”.

Noose Mississippi Members of the community gather before Derrick Johnson, left, president of the Mississippi NAACP, speaks in front of the Stone County Courthouse in Mississippi yesterday. Max Becherer / AP Max Becherer / AP / AP

“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.

Football coach John Feaster, the school’s first African American coach, said a player was kicked off the team as soon as school officials determined who was involved. 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,” Feaster told the Sun Herald.

He’s one of my favourite kids on this team.

Johnson said the Paytons have received no official word about punishments from school officials. He said school district policy calls for immediate expulsion of students who commit assault.

Read: BA passengers and crew treated for smoke inhalation after flight diverted

Read: Jury sees iPhone torture video of British banker ‘ranting on coke’ in front of victims

Associated Foreign Press
Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.