MASON, Ohio -- A Mason Middle School teacher's classroom comment that a black student could be "lynched" for failing to pay attention prompted backlash from the boy's mother and promises to do better from district officials.
"We had a teacher who made a thoughtless, offensive comment, and the student that that comment was directed at took her to account, and when she realized the gravity of the situation, she apologized," Mason City Schools superintendent Gail Kist-Kline said in a video posted on Facebook. "We feel like we need to apologize as well (not only) to the student, but to all those that we've let down so that we can begin to move forward from the situation."
The teacher in question, Renee Thole, was placed on administrative leave in connection to the incident. She will receive cultural sensitivity training before returning to work.
Tanisha Agee-Bell, the mother of the student at whom the remarks were targeted, said she reached out to Thole for clarity and felt "flabbergasted" when she learned what the teacher said.
"I don't know if she is racist," Agee-Bell said. "I know what she said is racist. … She kept asking him why he thought it was racist, and his whole commentary to me was, ‘I don't understand why she kept asking me that because she's a social studies teacher. She should understand why it's racist.'"
She met with fellow parents Thursday night at Crossroads Church to discuss the incident and develop a plan that would hold the district accountable in the future. According to Agee-Bell, Thole's comment represented a pattern at Mason City Schools.
"We are going to be watching and trying to help the district to move forward to work that is actually going to be sustainable and repeatable across the district," Agee-Bell said. "I am proud of him for standing up and saying, ‘I am not going to allow you to hurt me.'"
Thole's comment to Agee-Bell's son was not the only recent race-related incident at the school. According to WCPO partner the Journal-News, several Mason Middle School students recently received a racist message on Snapchat. School officials responded with a notice to parents.