HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A racist display in front of Varina High School has students and parents wondering if it was just a prank or something more.
Wednesday, a noose was photographed hanging from a tree outside the school. Thursday, the hateful object was long gone, but the anger was still there. Now, school leaders and police are working to figure out who did it.
The photo spread quickly via social media, and Tiarra Brown, an 11th grader, determined that it wasn't a joke.
"My school is predominantly black so for this to be put out and for parents to say that this is just a prank...it's not funny," Brown said.
The noose was the first disruption in an already tension filled day. It's SOL testing time, and the presence of news cameras appeared unwelcome as lawn mowers and leaf blowers muffled student interviews and nearly made contact with an NBC12 camera.
By the afternoon, students once again welcomed the attention as they gathered for a small, silent protest near the place where the noose once was. It wasn't meant to change the world...but it was meant to send a message.
"If we get together, things will actually happen and support will be around us," Brown said.
"Whoever did it, I think they deserve some kind of punishment, because it's not even right," added student Regine Spellman.
State law doesn't take kindly to this kind of racist image. In some cases, the law indicates hanging a noose can be a Class 6 felony. But first, police must find the person or people responsible, and that hasn't happened yet.
A Class 6 felony can be punished by up to five years in prison, or, 12 months in jail plus a $2500 fine.
Authorities are encouraging anyone with more information to call Crime Stoppers at 780-1000.