White students at Haywood High School in Brownsville, Tenn., were messaging each other through private group chats and making threats against Black students, including "stringing a ni**er up."
"So no go on stringing a ni**er up?" one student wrote, according to a screenshot obtained by a local news channel.
Another responded, "I mean we can find one Black guy and make an example for sure."
"I say we hang the ni**er lovers and make an example of them," another student commented.
Brownsville Mayor Bill Rawls said it was white baseball players from the high school involved in the group chat, The Jackson Sun reports. He said they suggested hanging Black students because they did not approve of relationships between Black males and white females.
When news of the group chat circulated, hundreds of students walked out of class in protest on Monday and were joined by parents and members of the community who showed up at the school.
"Today we all come together to fight against racism," Malik Green, a student who helped organize the protest, told WREG-TV. "We just can't stand for it anymore and we needed to take action."
Students were protesting the response of the school administrators, Principal Jerry Pyron and Assistant Principal Tim Seymour, who reprimanded the baseball players on the group chat by assigning them a 10-page paper. Nothing was said or done in regard to protecting the Black students under threat.
Kyler Douglas first posted the screenshots of the messages on Facebook. He saw his younger brother's name was mentioned in the chat, according to WBBJ-TV.
"I just want everyone to be aware of what's going on in the school," Douglas said. "And the kids are scared, because obviously they already had it and nobody posted it."
On Monday, Haywood County Schools posted a statement from Superintendent Joey Hassell on Facebook.
"I was made aware of the social media post regarding Haywood High School on Sunday morning," Hassell said. "I have requested a detailed report of the investigation to date from the HHS administration."
He also said there would be no criminal charges against the students involved.
"I have also been in communication with Chief Diebold and he has consulted with the District Attorney's office on the content of the message," Hassell said.
"Based on review of the DA's office, it is my understanding that there will be no criminal charges; however, the school district will review the findings of the HHS investigation and determine what actions will be taken."
"I was just mostly shocked and I wanted to ask them why they did it," said Kylan Smallwood, the team's quarterback and only Black varsity player.
About 200 students protested on Tuesday morning as well. Protest organizers, parents, pastor Undrae Johnson and local NAACP officials had a meeting with leaders of the school district on Tuesday afternoon and their requests were met, according to WBBJ-TV.
Pyron and Seymour have been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the investigation. There will be no retaliation for students protesting, and Hassell said the students behind the messages would be punished.
School leaders said they couldn't discuss student punishment. But Johnson said they were told the students involved were suspended as well.
"They told us the students would not be welcomed in the school until the investigation is complete," he said. "And what happens after that, we'll see as they complete their work in that."