PINEVILLE, W.Va. — A pair of investigations are now underway into allegations of a possible hate crime at Wyoming East High school.
Wyoming County Superintendent Deidre Cline confirmed the incident which occurred last week when the county’s’ two high schools met up for a game in boys basketball. In the visitor’s locker room at Wyoming East High School, somebody posted a picture of a stick figure hanging from a noose, and the name of a Westside High School player was written under the figure.
“Any type of bullying, harassment or anything even to a larger level we take that very seriously and have zero tolerance for that,” Cline told Metronews.
The Westside player named was Jace Colucci who is bi-racial. His mother, Erica Colucci Ayers, told WVVA Television this was not the first time her son had been the target of racial bullying by the cross county rivals. Just before the 2019 game between the new school a video circulated on social media in which she said her son was threatened.
“It was a video of kids chanting: hang Jace, hang Jace.” Ayers told WVVA.
When asked about the previous incident, Cline acknowledged it did happen and was investigated.
“There was an incident where a video was put out on Snap-Chat. That incident was thoroughly investigated and it was inconclusive as to what the students were saying on the video,” Cline said.
Despite that, Cline said action was taken in the investigation, but would not reveal the extent of what happened in relation to the SnapChat incident.
She designated members of the Wyoming County School Board to be involved in an internal investigation of the incident and is working in conjunction with law enforcement who are handling potential criminal charges over the incident.. The West Virginia State Police are involved with troopers out of Summers County looking into the matter as a potential hate crime. Members of the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department have recused themselves from the matter and the Wyoming County Prosecutor Michael Cochrane has asked the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorney’s Institute to appoint a prosecutor from another county to handle the matter. The moves come amid potential conflicts of interest.
“Our county is small and the children of officials and civil servants have to go to school somewhere. These folks are trying to be above board and do what is in the best interest of all children in Wyoming County and we respect that,” Cline said.