An incident at a West Virginia high school is being investigated as a possible hate crime after a teenager found a disturbing drawing inside a locker room.
Jace Colucci, a member of Westside High School’s basketball team, discovered the image shortly before his team’s game against rival Wyoming East High School last Friday, CNN reports. The 17-year-old, who is biracial, walked into the visitor’s locker room at Wyoming East to find a sketch of what appeared to be himself hanging from a noose.
Jace is reportedly the only non-white member of the team, and the drawing seemed to be labeled with the name “Jace,” next to it — leading the teenager to believe it was directed at him.
Erica Colucci Ayers, Jace’s mother, told WVVA-TV that her son did not mention the incident until after his basketball game, which he played with “his head held high.” Once Ayers found out what happened, though, she became very upset.
“They crossed the line with the noose,” Ayers told CNN. “That is a threat on his life. It is a hate crime. They took the time to color the face in on the stick figure.”
Wyoming County Schools, the district where the incident took place, has since said that the incident has been turned over to state police for investigation. Michael Cochrane, the county’s attorney general, told WVVA-TV that the drawing could constitute a possible hate crime.
“We’ll take it very seriously. If it meets that criteria, we’ll definitely jump on that,” Cochrane said. “But right now it’s too early to speculate.”
Ayers, meanwhile, has remained outspoken about the incident. On Friday, she shared the drawing on Facebook, saying the school board had a “responsibility to protect my son’s life.”
Additionally, she told WVVA-TV that this is the second year in a row Jace has faced racism while playing against Wyoming East. The mom claimed that last year she received a Snapchat video recorded at the annual rivalry game, during which several students were chanting, “hang Jace, hang Jace.”
“After last year, I think they failed my son. They didn’t just fail my son…they failed all of the students.”
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