NAACP calls for federal investigation into Stone Co. High noose incident

NAACP calls for federal investigation into Stone Co. High noose incident
Stone County High School (Photo source: WLOX)
Stone County High School (Photo source: WLOX)

STONE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi NAACP is urging federal authorities to investigate an alleged hate crime at Stone County High School.

The Mississippi State Conference NAACP claims school administrators failed to follow their own policies after white students threw a noose around the neck of a black student and "pulled the noose tight."

According to a news release from the NAACP, the students involved in the alleged attack are not being expelled, and school administrators failed to report the incident to law enforcement officials. The organization also claims administrators have not told the victim's parents what disciplinary action will be taken against the students.

"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," the news release said.

According to the Stone High Student Handbook, the superintendent and principal have the authority to expel any student who commits an act of violence on campus. The reported incident happened during school hours near the locker rooms on Thursday, Oct. 13.

During a news conference Monday, Derrick Johnson, state president of the Mississippi NAACP, said the victim's mother was discouraged from filing charges against the alleged attackers, because one boy's father was a former law enforcement officer. Johnson said there may be as many as four attackers.

According to Johnson, a Stone County Sheriff's investigator told the woman she could be faced with intimidation if she pursued charges against the students.

"No child should be in fear of going to school," said Johnson. "This is 2016, not 1916."

Sheriff Mike Farmer confirmed the mother talked to Capt. Ray Boggs.

"He wasn't trying to discourage her. He just wanted her to be sure," Farmer said about that conversation. "The sheriff's department doesn't know none of the kids except the victim."

Boggs said he wasn't trying to discourage the woman from filing the report, but he did want her to know that her child would be heavily scrutinized and possibly bullied on social media. Boggs said he has had past experiences with families who later regretted going through with investigations. He said those parents sometimes felt like their children were "worse off" than before the incident was reported.

"There has not been a day since she come in here that I have not been gathering facts," Boggs said.

Farmer said at this point, his investigators have not reviewed any of the evidence mentioned by the NAACP, but Boggs said a thorough investigation is moving forward.

"We are going through a process. All the proper people from the FBI has been notified," said Boggs. "I contacted them about the incident some time ago. I contacted our local DA's office about this incident some time ago."

Many Wiggins residents said Monday was the first time they heard about the reported incident.

"That's not right," said Jerry Sanders, a lifelong resident of the area and 1982 graduate of Stone High. "I can't believe that would happen in 2016."

Sanders, who is black, said nothing like that ever happened during his high school days more than three decades ago. Surprisingly, a vast majority of the residents we talked to had just learned about the incident.

"They've done a good job of covering it up, apparently," said one woman.

The Stone County School District has two school resource officers employed by the sheriff's department that cover its four schools. One of those officers told us they were made aware of the incident after it was handled.

Wiggins Police Chief Matt Barnett said he agrees with the NAACP that this should be an open investigation, but his department has received no complaints.

"We have not received any complaints at the police department, not to the best of my knowledge. I would know about this," said Barnett. "It needs to be investigated, I can say that much. I haven't talked to the mother, so I don't know what's going on.  We don't know anything about it."

Principal Adam Stone said he "absolutely" could not comment on the alleged incident. Stone County Superintendent of Education Inita Owen released the following statement to the media Monday afternoon:

"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."

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