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Early Wednesday morning, parents and school administrators came across a tangle of heavy rope hanging from a chainlink fence at Chabot Elementary School in Oakland, Calif. It looked like a noose.

According to Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki, who spoke with the San Jose Mercury News, few people saw the rope before Chabot’s principal took it down. Sasaki even suggested that the rope could have been a coincidence thrown onto the school’s fence.

But for several parents who either saw the rope or images of it played on local television stations, it’s clear what the rope represents.

“It was a rope in the form of a noose, period,” parent Courtney Jones told KGO-TV. Jones has two children who attend Chabot.

“For me, it was triggering and hurtful…I felt nervous and scared,” she said.

In an email to parents regarding the incident, Chabot’s principal wrote, “the way it was placed could have been a coincidence but it also could have been indicative of something more disturbing—it was easy to see the rope as a message that harkens back to some of our nation’s darkest history.”

The district says it’s now working with police, who are reviewing surveillance footage to help identify a suspect. The elementary school will also discuss the incident in a meeting next week with parents and staff, KGO-TV reports.