A 13-year-old middle school student in Ohio, identified only by his first name Nathan, was talking during the class when his white social studies teacher made an extremely racist remark: she reportedly told Nathan his classmates would lynch him if he doesn’t focus on his work.
According to the boy’s mother, Tanisha Agee-Bell, the incident occurred in December at Mason Middle School. School’s spokesperson Tracey Carson also confirmed the incident, which took place in Renee Thole’s classroom.
Talking to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the victim’s mother said the teacher told Nathan his friends were going to lynch him if he didn’t get back to work.
When the courageous boy told Thole her comments were racist in front of the class, the teacher asked why he would think that, the mother explained. The fear of getting into trouble for questioning the teacher did not let Nathan tell his mother about the incident immediately. However, when the teen shared the details with Agee-Bell, she initially thought her son had misunderstood the teacher.
Calling her son a jokester, Agee-Bell recalled thinking he must have been talking when the teacher scolded him. However, when she asked Thole about the incident and demanded an explanation, she realized the teacher’s remarks were harsher than what Nathan had told her.
“(She said) if he didn’t get back on task, his friends were going to form an angry mob and lynch him,” Agee-Bell told WXIX.
Thole said she had acted out of frustration.
While Agee-Bell admitted her son should have paid attention to his work, she was not satisfied with the teacher’s explanation.
"I told her, 'Next time you're frustrated are you going to call him a n*****?'" she said.
Agee-Bell took the issue to the school officials, asking them to remove her son from the “frustrated” educator’s class, which they agreed to.
"As educators, sometimes we mess up. And clearly that happened here," Carson said.
The spokeswoman kept mum when asked if the school had taken any disciplinary measures against Thole. However, she said the district “investigated, documented, and set expectations for (the) future.”
Carson praised Nathan for bravely confronting the teacher. She also said the teacher misspoke and felt awful.
Though Thole apologized to the boy for the offensive remarks in the class, she never explained to the mostly-white class what was wrong about her comments.
Agee-Bell – who has also been a member of Mason school district’s council for the past ten years – did not seem happy with the school’s handling of the race issue
She decided to speak during a school board meeting, but the officials asked her to discuss her concerns privately afterwards. The conversation lasted about five minutes and the racist comments were not mentioned once in the public meeting.
The officials thanked Agee-Bell for coming, assuring her such issues are taken seriously – something she didn’t believe.
In December, Agee-Bell had a meeting with district officials, including the superintendent. The school district’s response to the incident was “flippant,” according to her.
"I believe Mason is a community that is OK with the way it is," Agee-Bell said, referring to the racial tensions in the affluent suburb north of Cincinnati.
She cried remembering the way Nathan told her about the incident.
"My son was walking around thinking he did something wrong," the mother explained.
Agee-Bell doesn’t allow Nathan to play with BB guns, as she fears her neighbors would call police. She regretted her decision of moving to Mason. She said two other children, whose parents are also in the council, have suffered racial discrimination in the last few months as well.
Meanwhile, Mason invited Wil Haygood – a journalist and author of “The Butler: A Witness to History” – as a guest speaker to discuss race and empathy during school board meeting’s pubic portion. School employees praised the event using the hashtag #MasonShines.
Few days ago, a youth basketball team in Warren County was banned from the league for wearing jerseys with racist names printed on the back.
According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), between 1882 and the rise of the civil rights movement nearly a century later, more than 3,440 African-Americans were lynched because of their color.
Agee-Bell has thought about moving her children from Mason, but she wants to fight back these race related issues head-on.
Thumbnail/Banner : Michael Kooren/Reuters