MASON, Ohio — A white teacher who told a black student his classmates would form a mob and lynch him if he didn’t focus will not be suspended or fired, according to according to the child’s mother and Mason City Schools officials.
The incident happened in front of the child's class in December, according to his mother, Tanisha Agee-Bell. Mason Schools spokeswoman Tracey Carson confirmed the incident occurred in teacher Renee Thole's classroom.
Agee-Bell said her son, Nathan, didn't tell her what happened for a week because he thought he was going to be in trouble for questioning the teacher's remark.
According to Thole's investigation file, the teacher said Nathan was disrupting the class so she told him to get back to work.
“I said to him, (redacted) get to work,” Thole wrote. “Your classmates are tired of you costing them points. When you come in tomorrow without your homework completed, you (sic) classmates are going to be angry and then become a mob who will want to lynch you.”
Thole wrote that Nathan immediately called her remark racist, and she walked over and talked with him. She said she apologized to Nathan and told him she didn’t mean it “the way it came out."
On December 12, Nathan’s mother called Thole to complain, and on December 13, at the mother’s request, Thole apologized to her class.
The school district investigated and determined Thole will be required to attend cultural training, according to a formal letter of reprimand placed in her personnel file on Thursday.
"This is a serious miss on her part," said district spokeswoman Tracey Carson, adding that Thole's comment is especially disturbing given the horrific national context of slavery, segregation and lynching.
"There's nothing that could be done that would ever take back those words," Carson said. "And so, the next piece is trying to really determine what is the right recourse that offers restitution for the family and also sets expectations for the staff member."
Between 1882 and the height of the civil rights movement nearly a century later, more than 3,440 African-Americans were lynched in the U.S., according to the NAACP's website.
Nathan was certainly talking too much, his mother said, when he was reprimanded. The boy is a jokester who can be heard singing just about everywhere he goes.
But the teacher's words can never be unsaid, Agee-Bell said.
Agee-Bell said Thole told her she was frustrated.
"I told her, 'Next time you're frustrated are you going to call him a n*****?'," Agee-Bell said she asked Thole.
Agee-Bell said she was not satisfied with the district's discipline.
"That’s not a clear punishment," she told The Enquirer. "That’s not satisfactory at all. I still want her out of the classroom until she gets that training."
Thole teaches social studies at Mason Middle School. She was hired in 2002, and her personnel file shows largely positive reviews and no disciplinary action.
She makes $79,383 a year, according to the Ohio treasurer’s office.
Mason City Schools is a large, well-performing district in Warren County, about 30 minutes north of Cincinnati.
It's a wealthy district, relatively speaking, with about 8% of students considered economically disadvantaged.
The student body is 63% white and 4% black, according to Ohio Department of Education data.