ROBBINSVILLE — The state's scholastic athletic organization wants two schools to investigate after visiting Plainfield girls basketball team members found a black puppet hanging, with string around its neck, in a Clark high school art room where they were changing.

"Per (New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association) rules, we also have notified the state's New Jersey Division on Civil Rights in the Attorney General's Office and will keep them updated," the organization said in a statement.

NJSIAA exective director Steve Timko said in the statement on Monday he has asked both the Clark and Plainfield High Schools to investigate Saturday's incident and provide written reports on the matter.

An image of the puppet, found in an art room at the Arthur L. Johnson High School where the Plainfield players had been asked to change, made the rounds on social media amid accusations of racism over the weekend.

A parent of a student who takes a puppetry class in the same art room told New Jersey 101.5 the puppet was a class assignment to create a puppet of a famous person, and was actually a puppet of Lebron James created by another student. The parent said that the student may have let it dangle because it is not a completed project.

NJSIAA spokesman Mike Cherenson said no one has made an allegation of racism to his group directly.

"We're just asked the schools to investigate and report back what actually happened. Based upon those findings we'll take action if required."

Union County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Mark Spivey said that office's bias unit was aware of the matter, and in communication with the Clark Police Department and Clark Public School District regarding it.

Both Clark and Plainfield Schools have issued statements saying the matter will be investigated.

Clark school superintendent Edward Grande and Plainfield spokeswoman Gloria Montealgre both declined to answer additional questions on Monday about the incident, citing their respective investigations.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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