A white Ohio teacher is under fire after she told a 13-year-old Black middle school student that he would be lynched by an angry mob if he didn’t behave in class and do his work.
Tanisha Agee-Bell said she was shocked when her son, Nathan, told her about the December incident involving his teacher, Renee Thole.
“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.’ ”
Thole admitted to school officials that she made the comment during her social studies class at Mason Middle School in a suburb of Cincinnati, according to the outlet.
Agee-Bell said that Nathan didn’t tell his mother what happened for a week because he thought he would be in trouble for questioning Thole’s remark.
Mason Middle School and Mason City Schools officials did not immediately responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment. However, middle school spokesperson, Tracey Carson, confirmed the incident to the Associated Press, saying that educators sometimes “mess up” and Thole did not mean to offend the student.
The concerned mother said she later spoke with Thole, who acknowledge making the comment and told Agee-Bell that she was simply frustrated with the talkative teen. “I told her, ‘Next time you’re frustrated, are you going to call him a n—–?’ ” Agee-Bell told The Cincinnati Enquirer.
“For her not to understand that the words she said were a direct pull from what has been, what was a practice in the United States, is unacceptable,” Agee-Bell told WLWT, referring to the lynchings that lasted well into the 20th century.
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“She shouldn’t be in the classroom. She shouldn’t be in the classroom at all. And I’m not saying she should never go back in the classroom, but until she can demonstrate that she understands what the impact of the language that she used, and what she did can have, has had on my son …. then she doesn’t need to be in the classroom,” she continued.
It is unclear if Thole was disciplined for the incident, but she later apologized to Nathan in the classroom, according to the Enquirer. Nathan has since been removed from the class.
Carson told ABC News that the school has no plans to remove Thole from the program, but has placed a letter of reprimand 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,” the letter read, according to ABC. “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.”
Meanwhile, Gail Kist-Kline, superintendent of Mason City Schools, sent a letter to parents on Thursday, stating that any racist behavior is unacceptable.