A Mason teacher told this 13-year-old he might be lynched. The child didn

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A Mason parent says a white middle school teacher told her black son he would be lynched if he didn’t get back on task.
Sam Greene/The Enquirer

A Mason parent says a white middle school teacher told her black son he would be lynched if he didn’t get back on task.

The incident happened in front of the child’s class in December, according to his mother, Tanisha Agee-Bell. Mason Schools spokeswoman Tracey Carson confirmed the incident occurred in teacher Renee Thole’s classroom.

“As educators, sometimes we mess up. And clearly that happened here,” Carson said.

The spokeswoman declined to say if the teacher was disciplined, but said the district “investigated, documented, and set expectations for (the) future.”

The Enquirer has requested more documents concerning the incident. Thole could not be reached for comment.

When Agee-Bell’s 13-year-old son Nathan called Thole’s comment racist in class last month, the teacher asked him why he thought that, the mother said.

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She said Nathan didn’t tell her what happened for a week because he thought he was going to be in trouble for questioning the teacher’s remark.

Nathan was certainly talking too much, his mother said, when he was reprimanded. The boy is a jokester who can be heard singing just about everywhere he goes.

But the teacher’s words can never be unsaid, Agee-Bell said.

Later, Agee-Bell spoke with Thole. She said the teacher acknowledged telling her son that if he didn’t improve his focus on schoolwork that his friends were going to form an angry mob and lynch him. 

More than 3,440 African-Americans were lynched in the United States between 1882 and the height of the civil rights movement nearly a century later, according to the NAACP’s website. 

Agee-Bell said Thole told her she was frustrated.

“I told her, ‘Next time you’re frustrated are you going to call him a n*****?'”

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Tanisha Agee-Bell is pictured on the right of this 2008 Enquirer archive photo. (Photo: Enquirer file)

Agee-Bell asked officials to remove her son from the social studies class, which they did.

Thole would apologize in class for offending Nathan and said she didn’t have harmful intentions. But Agee-Bell said she never explained to the largely white class why she was wrong. 

Carson said the teacher misspoke and felt awful.

Of Nathan, she said, “It was amazing he was brave enough to confront the teacher.”

Agee-Bell said she planned to speak during a school board meeting Tuesday night, but was asked by officials to talk privately afterward instead. She said that conversation lasted five minutes. 

In it, Agee-Bell said officials thanked her for coming and said they take race issues seriously.

“I don’t believe them,” she said afterward.

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Agee-Bell had previously met with district officials, including the superintendent, in December. She called the school district’s response to the incident “flippant.”

“I believe Mason is a community that is OK with the way it is,” Agee-Bell said, referencing racial tensions.

In an interview Wednesday, Agee-Bell cried recalling the nonchalant way Nathan told her what happened.

She was thinking about how she doesn’t let Nathan play with Airsoft guns because of fears their neighbors might call the cops. Then, she blamed herself for moving here and tears began to form in her eyes again.

“My son was walking around thinking he did something wrong,” Agee-Bell said.

During the public portion of the Mason school board meeting Tuesday, officials praised a guest speaker who discussed race and empathy at the district last week. School employees tweeted about the event using the hashtag, #MasonShines.

The lynching comments were not mentioned at the school board meeting.

Agee-Bell is a member of the Mason school district’s diversity council – and has been for more than a decade.

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.

News of her son’s experience came only days after a neighboring youth basketball team in Warren County was kicked out of its league for putting racist names on the back of their jerseys.

Agee-Bell plans to return to the next board meeting. If asked to discuss her concerns privately, she says she will refuse.

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