Principal: noose found in Troy school gym was not racially motivated

School officials call incident a cry for help

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published January 2, 2019

TROY — Athens High School Principal Lara Dixon assured parents in a letter emailed Dec. 21 that  a rope fashioned into a noose found in the boys locker room near the end of the school day Dec. 20 was a cry for help and was not racially motivated.

The letter to parents Dec. 20 states that “students coming from a physical education class discovered a rope that was fashioned into a noose in the rear shower area of the boys locker room. We immediately began an investigation and have spoken to the students who found the rope, as well as to staff who work in the immediate area, and have also begun a preliminary review of nearby surveillance video.”

Kerry Birmingham, the director of communications and strategic initiatives for the Troy School District — who also signed the letters sent to all Troy School District parents — told C & G Newspapers that the Troy police were initially involved in the investigation.

Birmingham said that after school officials received information that “allowed us to get early resolution,” there was “no police investigation.”

A letter signed by Dixon and Birmingham sent Dec. 21 states that “after we shared some preliminary information with you last night, we immediately began to receive leads from both students and parents about their concern for a particular student who may have been involved.

“This morning, we identified and connected with the student and have determined that the student was responsible for the noose left in the locker room. The student is suspended pending the outcome of a hearing, per our student Code of Conduct. … Our initial investigation reveals that this appears to be more of a cry for help surrounding some ongoing mental health issues, rather than a racially motivated incident. That said, we are mindful of the abhorrent symbolism of a noose to our community and understand the valid feelings of those who had seen or heard about it. We are sharing this information — with parent permission — not to minimize the emotions of those hurt by this incident, but to help with understanding of the full context of what occurred.”

The letter goes on to thank the parents and students for coming forward, which allowed school district officials to “get to the bottom of the situation very quickly. We also would like to take a moment to ask parents to connect with your children about any struggles they might be having with depression or mental health issues. The holidays are a very difficult time for many people, and we want our students to know that we care about each and every one of them. If you need resources to help, we stand ready to provide them. Please remember in the event of a mental health emergency when school is not in session, call 911 immediately.”