An Ohio middle school teacher will not be suspended or terminated after telling her 13-year-old Black student he would face a lynch mob if he didn’t do his work.
Renee Thole, a white social studies teacher at Mason Middle School, told the young boy, Nathan, in December, “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.”
“That’s racist,” Nathan reportedly told his teacher.
According to Tanisha Agee-Bell, Nathan’s mother, her son did not tell her about the incident for a week because he was afraid he’d get in trouble for talking back to his teacher. When Nathan first told his mother what happened, he didn’t even include the full remark, Agee-Bell told Fox 19.
“[My son told us] his teacher had told him that if he didn’t get back on task, that his friends were going to lynch him, and we thought he must have misunderstood,” Agee-Bell said.
Agee-Bell spoke with Thole, who confirmed the full comment that she made.
“I was just taken aback because I said, ‘What you said is actually worse than what he said you said,’” Agee-Bell told Fox 19.
Thole told Agee-Bell she was frustrated with Nathan.
“I told her, ‘Next time you’re frustrated are you going to call him a n*****?’” Agee-Bell said to Cincinnati.com.
As “punishment,” Thole will attend a cultural training. A statement from the school district reads, in part:
“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.”
Agee-Bell told the Cincinnati Enquirer that this is not enough.
“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.”
Agee-Bell has been a member of the school district’s diversity council for more than a decade, and according to Cincinnati.com, “She said two other children with parents on the council have experienced similar racially charged situations in the last few months. She’s thought about pulling her children from the district, but wants to stay and face these race-related issues head-on.”
Nathan has been removed from Thole’s class, though.
“I want the district to take ownership of this and to work to make the environment better for all students,” Agee-Bell told Fox 19. “They said they want to have a safe nurturing environment for all students. My son doesn’t feel safe, and that’s not okay.”
The district is roughly 63 percent white and 4 percent Black.
At Agee-Bell’s request, Thole made an apology to the whole (majority-white) class, which said:
“I made a public comment, so I would like to make a public apology. Today is a day where we can learn the importance of thinking before you speak. I made a comment the other day where I didn’t stop and think before I spoke. As a result of that I deeply hurt a student and I regret that. Just because I never meant to hurt anyone, doesn’t mean that didn’t happen, so (redacted), I’m sorry. If I had just taken two seconds to think before used the world lynch, I would have not hurt a student. I didn’t think about all of the ugliness and horrible history surrounding that word before I used it. (redacted) I am deeply sorry and I hope that you can forgive me.”
But her apology does not explain why what she said was racially charged.
According to the NAACP’s website, between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 Black people were lynched in America. And this is only what’s on record; the actual number is believed to be much greater.
Lynchings were often large events attended by the public. PBS reported that they were advertised in newspapers with headlines including “Five White Men Take Negro Into Woods; Kill Him: Had Been Charged with Associating with White Women,” “Negro Is Slain By Texas Posse: Victim’s Heart Removed After His Capture By Armed Men” and “Negro and White Scuffle; Negro Is Jailed, Lynched.”