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Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 11:24 PM
MASON — The mother of a black Mason Middle School student blasted school officials Tuesday night for “trying to silence me” in her response to the incident involving a white teacher who told her son his classmates would “lynch” him.
Tanisha Agee-Bell was among the speakers in a standing-room-only crowd of mostly black residents at the first Mason school board meeting since the racial incident that drew national attention was unveiled this month.
“What has shocked me is the cavalier way those racist statements were shared and the lack of urgency in which the district responded,” said Agee-Bell, who teared up at times during the meeting as other black residents voiced their complaints about the racial climate in Warren County’s largest school system.
She told the board her early efforts in following district procedures for complaining about the teacher’s remark were largely ignored.
After three weeks, Agee-Bell said, she came to the board in late December and asked for its help in mediating her complaints against veteran teacher Renee Thole.
Thole was initially reprimanded. Then -- after public outcries about leniency, led by Agee-Bell – Thole was ordered on paid administrative leave that includes racial sensitivity training.
“Instead you tried to silence me, to save your image, under the guise of a personnel issue,” she told the board.
“I had no choice but to engage the (news) media,” she said of her choice to go public.
“Your refusal to listen and the superintendent’s refusal to acknowledge the racist nature of the incident made clear you had no intention of living up to your mission of providing a safe and nurturing environment for all students.”
“You broke a sacred trust between us. While I appreciate that you finally did the right thing in my case, we will all forever wonder if it was because you recognized it was right to do, or if you were forced by a greater community that knows that right is always right,” said Agee-Bell.
She told the five-member board she hoped the members too would participate in the district’s ongoing and new racial sensitivity programs “so you can examine your own implicit bias and its impact on how you govern the district.”
Mason Superintendent Gail Kist-Kline and Board President Matthew Steele started the meeting with apologizes on how Agee-Bell’s complaint and the teacher’s initial punishment were handled.
Mason officials had earlier vowed to boost existing racial and cultural education programs as well as create new diversity outreach efforts in the 10,400-student district.
Black students comprise 4 percent of Mason’s enrollment with 23.5 percent Asian, Pacific Islander the largest minority group of students. White, non-Hispanic students total 63 percent of enrollment.
Fellow African-American school parent Andrea King called on the board to measure its policies regarding racial sensitivity and determine “if they are implemented fairly.”
Jill Gorley, also a black resident, told the all-white board “we always talk about student diversity and inclusion but I think we have to talk about what our school board looks like. What do our teachers look like and who are we hiring?”
Board members said they heard the messages delivered.
Connie Yingling, in a reference to long-standing board policy not to address personnel issues during public meetings, said, “my intention was never to silence anyone.”
Fellow board member Courtney Allen said, “I appreciate those who spoke here tonight. It’s hard to hear of the difficulties some have had in the district.”
District Spokeswoman Tracey Carson was part of a board presentation at the meeting on how district officials are “accelerating” and adding to required racial and cultural sensitivity training for teachers and school staffers.
New programs will be installed with “an increased sense of urgency,” Carson said.
After the meeting, Agee-Bell said, “I was very pleased with the community support” from African American residents, whites and Asians in attendance
As for the district’s response so far, it “still has a lot of work to do.”
“A plan is great right, but we need to have the right people implementing the plan. It’s not that I expect them to not make mistakes but I expect them to handle them better,” she said.
Published: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 3:38 PM
Updated: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 6:10 PM
FRANKLIN — UPDATE @6:10 p.m.
Twelve pets, including 11 dogs and 1 bird, were rescued from a house on fire.
Fire crews said when they arrived on scene of the fire in the 900 block of Turner Lane Saturday afternoon, heavy smoke and flames were showing. All the residents were able to make it out safely, but they advised of the 12 pets trapped in the house.
Crews initially said 10 pets were in the house.
Fire crews said the pets were scared and didn’t want to be touched, which made rescuing them difficult. It took about 15 minutes to get the 12 pets out of the house, which are safe and weren’t injured, crews said.
The fire is believed to have started in a wall or on a deck.
The American Red Cross is assisting the family. The home sustained an estimated $30,000 to $40,000 in damages.
No one was injured.
UPDATE @ 4:50 p.m.
Firefighters were able to rescue 10 pets from a burning home in Franklin Saturday afternoon.
Officials said all 10 of the family’s pets were pulled to safety and were not injured after the fire broke out in a home in the 900 block of Turner Lane around 3:25 p.m.
The residents and firefighters battling the blaze were also not injured. Crews initially reported possible injuries after a man was found on the porch of the home when emergency units first arrived. Those reports were later deemed unfounded, according to investigators.
The cause of the fire is unknown and still under investigation, fire officials said.
Fire crews have responded to reports of a house fire in the 900 block of Turner Lane in Franklin Saturday afternoon.
Firefighters reported heavy smoke and flames coming from the house around 3:25 p.m.
Initial reports indicate at least one person might have been injured.
Published: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 5:54 AM
Updated: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 4:31 PM
— QUICK-LOOK FORECAST
Tonight: Areas north of I-70 will see a chance for snow through the evening, according to Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Brett Collar. All snow will taper off during the overnight hours. Temperatures will continue to drop tonight and overnight, with lows eventually reaching the upper 20s. Due to the dropping temperatures, an isolated slick spot will be possible on the roads.
Sunday: Sunshine is expected with highs reaching the middle 40s.
Monday: Rain returns to the area, and overall it appears to be a rather soggy day. Highs will be in the middle 40s. Highs will climb to the lower 60s.
Tuesday: High temperatures will be near 70 degrees but we’ll have a chance for more rain. Rain and even a few storms will be possible in the evening through early Wednesday morning.
Wednesday: Rain to start the day but clouds will break into the afternoon. Given the amount of rain from Monday through Wednesday, flooding will be possible in some areas. Highs on Wednesday will reach the middle 50s.
Thursday: Mostly cloudy skies with highs expected in the middle to upper 40s.
Published: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 3:21 PM
WARREN COUNTY — Two hikers, one of which was injured, have been located and rescued at Caesar Creek State Park in Warren County Saturday, according to dispatchers.
Emergency crews responded to the state park on reports of at least one injured hiker around 1:40 p.m., dispatchers told this news organization.
One hiker was found suffering from a hip injury. One, or both of the hikers were also showing signs of hypothermia, according to officials.
Rescue crews had to use a boat to get the injured hikers to safety. Around 3:15 p.m., scanner traffic from the scene indicated both hikers were off the boat and safely on land at one of the boat ramps with medics tending to them.
Additional details were not available.
Published: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 2:27 PM
Updated: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 3:52 PM
— UPDATE @ 3:50 p.m.
Firefighters are calling a blaze suspicious that broke out in a Dayton house Saturday afternoon.
Investigators said the fire was located in the kitchen area of a vacant house around 2:15 p.m. Saturday.
No injuries were reported.
Fire crews have responded to a house fire in the first block of Victor Avenue in Dayton Saturday afternoon.
Emergency crews were dispatched around 2:15 p.m. and reported heavy smoke coming from the structure.
Initial reports indicate the structure is believe to be vacant, and the fire was located in the kitchen area of the house.