An Ohio woman is demanding her African-American son’s white middle school teacher be removed from the classroom after officials said the educator admitted telling him his classmates might “lynch” him if he didn’t focus on his studies.
Tanisha Agee-Bell, 43, told ABC News on Thursday that the incident occurred at Mason School in a suburb of Cincinnati the first week of December.
“I want her removed from the classroom until she can get the proper training,” said Agee-Bell.
She said that about a week after the incident, her son Nathan, 13, told her about the confrontation that occurred in front of his classmates.
“He was in class and the teacher told him that if he didn’t get on task his friends are going to form an angry mob and lynch you,” Agee-Bell said, adding that the school is predominantly white. “When she said that, he said back to her, ‘That’s racist.’ She approached him and said, ‘Why do you think that’s racist? I would never do anything to hurt you.”
School officials said the teacher, Renee Thole, who has been employed at the school since 2004, admitted making the racially insensitive comment to Nathan.
“I would say, yes the teacher did confirm she said that,” Tracey Carson, a spokeswoman for the Mason School District, told ABC News. “She immediately recognized she had done something wrong.”
Carson said there are no plans to remove Thole from the classroom, but a letter of reprimand has been placed in her personnel file.
“You shared that you realized that you cannot take that moment back but can only strive to make it a teachable moment for you and the students with your actions,” reads the letter of reprimand, which the school district released to ABC News. The letter goes on to read, “Be advised that future instances of problems in the areas we have discussed may warrant further disciplinary action to be taken against you that may lead to termination of your employment.”
Thole could not be reached for comment.
Agee-Bell, a member of the school district’s diversity committee, said Nathan waited about a week before telling her what occurred. She said as soon as she heard, she emailed Thole and later spoke to the teacher on the phone, demanding she apologize to her son in front of his class. She said she wasn’t convinced that Thole, who is in her 30s, fully understands how offensive her comments were.
“I told her, ‘The fact that you’re a social studies teacher and you don’t understand the racial implications of what you said to my son baffles me,'” Agee-Bell said.
She said Thole told her that she made the comment to Nathan out of frustration that he wasn’t focused on his schoolwork.
“I told her, ‘Next time you’re frustrated are you going to call him a n—–?'” Agee-Bell said.
Nathan told his mother that Thole did apologize to him in front of his classmates, saying, she was “‘sorry you were offended by what I said,'” but nothing further.
Agee-Bell said she won’t let the issue rest until the school district does more to discipline Thole other than giving her a letter of reprimand. She said she has gotten her son removed from Thole’s classroom.
Gail Kist-Kline, superintendent of Mason City Schools, issued a letter to parents on Thursday addressing the issue.
“We have seen an uptick in the number of racially and culturally insensitive comments in our schools and community. Sometimes these are said out of genuine ignorance,” Kist-Kline wrote.
“As a district, we want to be very clear, racial slurs or any behavior that discriminates against others are NOT acceptable. When adults act in a way that is not in line with our values, we lose trust. In our district, we take corrective action to address these situations, but we need to do more.”