An Ohio teacher has been ordered to undergo training after telling a black student he might be lynched if he didn’t “get on task.”
Renee Thole, a white social studies teacher at predominantly white Mason Middle School who made the comments to the 13-year-old male student in December, won’t be disciplined, but has been reprimanded and will be required to attend cultural proficiency training, the Mason City School District said Thursday.
The boy’s mother, Tanisha Agee-Bell, said she was shocked when her son, Nathan, told her about the teacher’s comment. She said the teen had been reluctant to tell her at first because he challenged the teacher’s comments as racist and didn’t want to get in trouble, according to local station WLWT-TV.
“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 told ABC News. “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.”
Agee-Bell complained to school officials, who began investigating.
Thole admitted she made the comment and “immediately recognized she had done something wrong,” school district spokeswoman Tracey Carson told ABC News.
Agee-Bell said Thole told her she made the comment out of frustration with Nathan’s classroom performance.
“I told her, ‘Next time you’re frustrated are you going to call him a n*****?’” the mom told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Thole reportedly apologized to her class for the lynching remark. She said she meant no harm and didn’t think about the racially tinged history behind the word, according to WXIX-TV.
More than 3,440 African-Americans were lynched in the United States from 1882 to the height of the civil rights movement, according to the NAACP.
Nathan is no longer in her class. Thole, however, is still teaching, and that angers Agee-Bell.
“For me, that’s enough for her, as a social studies teacher especially, to be removed from the classroom,” Agee-Bell said. “I don’t know if she’s racist, but I know that what she said is racist.”
The school district released this statement on Wednesday:
“Growing Greatness Together is our district’s vision. But, we have not arrived. We have work to do.
“Sometimes we mess up. Clearly, that was the case here. And, even though this teacher did not set out to hurt a child - clearly that happened too. It was amazing that this young black man was brave enough to confront his teacher when the incident happened.
“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. For example, some students contend that they are not being offensive if they say n***a vs. the n-word. As a district, we want to be very clear. We are not OK normalizing racial slurs. Anyone who does so faces disciplinary action.
“Our district will continue to invest in training and resources on culturally proficient practices for administrators, educators and classified staff members that lift up our district’s values.”
A petition on Change.org asks that Thole be fired.