Payton, a college instructor, said her son met her in her office and told her about the noose a couple of hours after it happened in a high school locker room.
“I sat down and I looked up at him and I said, ‘Son, just lay it on me. Just give it to me,’” she said. “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.”
The Stone County Sheriff’s Department is investigating. Mississippi NAACP President Derrick Johnson is calling for federal authorities to investigate a possible hate crime. Brett Carr, the FBI spokesman in Mississippi, said the bureau is aware of the incident but he can’t confirm or deny whether agents are investigating.
Payton described her son as a peaceful young man and said he was friends with the boys involved, and even called one of them “brother.” The Payton family says up to four white students took part.
The school district’s attorney, Sean Courtney, wrote in an email to AP that only one student was accused of misconduct, according to statements from witnesses and those involved. Courtney said that student has been suspended from school “pending the conclusion of the disciplinary process.” Following district policy, Courtney did not release the student’s name.
Courtney said there was no report of any racially-insensitive language nor any indication of what the motivation may have been.
Payton said administrators should have contacted her immediately instead of waiting about two hours. After her son had already told her what happened, she received a call from an assistant principal, she said.
“He was very emotionless, just presented simple facts that this is what has occurred on campus,” Payton said. “I think just the tone in his voice and the way that he spoke to me just caused a lot of anger to come up.”
Associated Press writer Jeff Amy contributed to this report.