CLARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Officials are investigating after a black puppet was found hanging by its neck in a room where a northern New Jersey high school’s girls’ basketball team was changing before a game.

Players from Plainfield High School discovered the puppet hanging from its neck by a string in the room they were provided at Arthur L. Johnson High School before they squared off against the Clark school on Saturday. A basketball was also tied to the string.

Some students found the hanging puppet to be a disturbing reminder of a lynching, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported.

Officials said the students were changing in a room where puppetry is taught, raising questions on whether or not the puppet was an intentional act of racial intimidation — or just a misunderstanding.

A woman identified only as a mother of a student at the high school told NJ.com the puppet belonged to a student in her son’s class, and was intended to be a recreation of basketball player LeBron James. The woman told the newspaper she was “deeply sorry” the students at Plainfield High School viewed the puppet in a demeaning way. 

Superintendent Anna Belin-Pyles says the Plainfield Public School District doesn’t condone any acts of intolerance and she considers the “troubling incident” a serious matter.

Clark Public Schools officials have promised to look into the incident. Belin-Pyles says Plainfield officials will help investigate the facts and present their own findings.

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