Stacey Payton said she spoke with her son earlier this month, just a few hours after the incident at his high school.
And her son, a black high school football player, told Payton not to panic.
“His first words were, ‘Mom … please stay calm. Don’t panic. I don’t want you to call the school because it’s already been handled,’ ” Payton told the Associated Press. “When I was looking at him, he was shaking, and the expression on his face — he was horrified. He was very fearful.”
Payton on Thursday spoke with the AP about the incident at Stone High School in Wiggins, Miss., where a noose allegedly was placed around her son’s neck and “yanked backward,” according to an NAACP official. The encounter reportedly happened in mid-October; authorities are investigating, the AP reports.
“I sat down and I looked up at him and I said, ‘Son, just lay it on me. Just give it to me,’ ” Payton told the wire service, continuing to describe the conversation with her son. “And he said, ‘Mom, they put a noose around my neck and they pulled it tight and it choked me.’ And I just instantly — it was like a chill went over my body.”
Derrick Johnson, the president of the Mississippi NAACP, told reporters earlier this month that the incident had occurred at the high school, which is located about 35 miles from Gulfport. In the wake of the allegations, he called for a federal hate-crime investigation into the matter.
“No child should be walking down the hall or in a locker room and be accosted with a noose around their neck,” Johnson said at a press conference. “This is 2016, not 1916. This is America. This is a place where children should go to school and feel safe in their environment.”
The team’s coach spoke with ESPN earlier this month and said that players were prepping for practice when the incident took place. The coach, John Feaster, also said that just one person was involved, though the victim’s family and Johnson have suggested that there might have been multiple assailants.
“The individual that was responsible hasn’t been with our team since the incident,” Feaster told ESPN earlier this month. “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.”
Sean Courtney, an attorney for the school district, also told the Associated Press in an email that just one student had been accused. The student, whose name has not been released, was suspended “pending the conclusion of the disciplinary process,” according to Courtney, who also noted that officials have not yet determined a possible motivation for the incident.
The AP on Thursday reported that the 15-year-old victim, a sophomore, is still playing football for the school and going to classes there. He didn’t suffer any physical injuries in the attack, but the AP’s report notes that Payton believes it has “permanently changed” her teenage son.