MASON, Ohio -- A middle school teacher is on administrative leave after telling an African-American student his classmates may "lynch" him for not focusing on his studies.
Renee Thole, a social studies teacher at Mason Middle School, made the statement to 13-year-old Nathan in the first week of December, ABC News reports. He didn't tell his mother until a week later.
Gail Kist-Kline, Mason City Schools superintendent, said Saturday the remark was "thoughtless and offensive."
"There's no explanation or defense that would make such a comment appropriate in any setting," she wrote in a letter posted to the district's Facebook page. "It was wrong. Racism is real in America, and we all have an obligation to fight it."
The district also gave her a formal reprimand. According to Kist-Kline, it's the only time Thole has been disciplined in more than 22 years with Mason City Schools.
Kist-Kline called Nathan "the hero in this story."
"The teacher made a racially insensitive remark," she wrote. "The student bravely stood up and called his teacher to account. The student could have reacted poorly and could have rightfully berated the teacher for her thoughtlessness. Yet, he extended grace to the teacher."
Issues of race came to the forefront in Warren County over the past week. High school students from the nearby Kings Local School District were banned from a recreational basketball league for jerseys with racial slurs written on them. A Kings school board member then resigned, saying his son was on the team.
"The reality that our family is associated with this is heartbreaking," Kerry McKiernan said. "It breaks my Christian heart."