Mason school district apologizes for "lynching" comment directed at 8th grader
MASON, Ohio (WKRC) - The Mason School District said a teacher messed up when she told a black student he might be lynched if he didn't stop acting out.
The mother of that 13-year-old boy calls what happened an "emotional assault."
Tanisha Agee-Bell is a very involved mom of five children. She says this one incident involving her son is part of a bigger problem.
She's on the diversity board for the Mason City School District.
"For me, this is about educational outcomes. It's about changing the district's climate so that we can improve the educational outcome for every student in the district," said Tanisha Agee-Bell.
Agee-Bell said she was shocked when her 13-year-old son told her that his social studies teacher made what he called a racist comment towards him. So she called the teacher.
"She contacted me back and told her what Nathan had said, She said what I actually said was – ‘If you don't get back on task your friends are going to form an angry mob and lynch you.’ I was stunned. I was like are you serious, you really said that to my son?" said Agee-Bell.
Agee-Bell tells Local12 she asked the district to remove her son from that teacher's classroom, which they did.
Tracey Carson, a spokeswoman for the Mason City School District, said they've placed a letter of reprimand in the teacher's file and are requiring her to undergo sensitivity training. She’s been with the district since 2004.
But for the Mason mom, that's not enough. Agee-bell wants the district to a have teacher code of conduct and for the curriculum to be more racially sensitive.
Mason's Superintendent Gail Kist-Kline put out a letter to parents yesterday saying racial slurs are not acceptable. As a district, it has to "invest in training and resources on culturally proficient practices."
Kist-Kline also released the following statement Jan. 13:
This week, our school district was in the spotlight for a thoughtless and offensive remark made to an African American student. There’s no explanation or defense that would make such a comment appropriate in any setting. It was wrong. Racism is real in America, and we all have an obligation to fight it.
It is not lost on me that this comes as we prepare to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and his legacy of fighting for justice. Dr. King reminded us that, “the time is always right to do what is right.” In this case involving our teacher, the right thing to do is apologize, make amends, and take steps to be better. Once the teacher realized the gravity and impact of her statement, she apologized to the student. Later, the teacher publicly apologized to the entire class for her thoughtless remark.
The teacher is currently on administrative leave while we continue to look into all that has been reported. We’ve also formally reprimanded the teacher and placed a disciplinary report into her personnel file. This is the first and only time the teacher has been disciplined in more than 22 years with our district.
Some have called for this teacher to be immediately fired and banned from ever teaching again. We understand and respect the passion of these viewpoints. The teacher has been disciplined. She is required to take further training to learn from this troubling mistake. And our school district will do more to help educators make their classrooms more inclusive and equitable by providing training on how to combat bigotry and bias.
Those of us who’ve dedicated our lives to educating others understand that everything that happens in and around a school is important because it involves our most precious asset; our children. We also realize that we must use even the most difficult moments as an opportunity to reflect, grow, and learn. On a daily basis, in classrooms around the world, people make mistakes, someone corrects them, and everyone learns from the mistake. The teacher made a racially insensitive remark. The student bravely stood up and called his teacher to account. The student could have reacted poorly and could have rightfully berated the teacher for her thoughtlessness. Yet, he extended grace to the teacher. The student is the hero in this story.
We recognize that we have much more work to do. We know we have ground to make up with those we’ve let down. We will not shy away from difficult conversations that may be hard and messy. We will continue to engage with our community on issues of racism and discrimination.
We appreciate those who challenge us to be better, and we are eager to engage in the work that ensures that all of our community’s children feel safe, welcomed and valued while in our schools.