RALEIGH - Wakefield High School students arrived on campus Tuesday morning to find a black teddy bear hanging by a noose from the building next to a sign that read "Make Wakefield TRIPP again #smartlunch".
Students told ABC11 the sign was in reference to bringing back their former white principal who was replaced in 2015 and an hour-long lunch break that was done away with.
It was quickly removed, but many staff and students saw it, and a photo quickly spread on social media.
The school's principal, Malik Bazzell, said the school's stadium and baseball field were also vandalized.
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He said the school will seek criminal charges and is working with WCPSS security to investigate the incident.
"Let me be clear: This was an offensive act that has no place in our school," said Principal Malik Bazzell. "The imagery is deeply offensive and everyone in our school community should be appalled."
READ THE FULL STATEMENT FROM PRINCIPAL MALIK BAZZELL
The Wake County School District also took to its social media account to ensure parents and students that incidents like this will not be tolerated.
Students are not taking the matter lightly either.
"I don't think it was a senior prank," said Wakefield High School senior Sami Walsh. "It has nothing to do with seniors because we're out of here, so why would we care about that? It was definitely a hate crime."
Several Raleigh police cars were visible on campus Tuesday afternoon.
A spokesperson for the department said they are coordinating with school officials and following up on the vandalism.
Inside the school, students were called to a participate in a forum to talk about the incident.
"Wakefield is a great school, filled with incredibly talented students and dedicated teachers," said parent Lisa Goldsmith. "This egregious act does not reflect our student body accurately."
The school's Black Student Union wants the person(s) responsible to be held accountable.
They plan to hold a meeting after school Wednesday afternoon as a safe space for students to discuss the matter.
"The more things go unpunished, the more people think it's okay, and I don't think that's right," said Wakefield High School Black Student Union President Lauren Howell.
"We just want to make sure that people of color in Wake County can feel safe and be able to come to school and not have to worry about seeing a noose hanging from the ceiling," said Wakefield High School Black Student Union Vice President India Card.