DETAILS: Teacher’s ‘lynch’ comment to black student earns reprimand

Published: Thursday, January 11, 2018 @ 7:20 PM


            A white Mason Middle School teacher has been reprimanded by district officials for telling an African-American boy in her class last month that he would be “lynched” by his classmates if he didn’t finish his school work. The teacher has also been ordered to attend cultural sensitivity training classes provided by Mason Schools.(Provided photo)
A white Mason Middle School teacher has been reprimanded by district officials for telling an African-American boy in her class last month that he would be “lynched” by his classmates if he didn’t finish his school work. The teacher has also been ordered to attend cultural sensitivity training classes provided by Mason Schools.(Provided photo)

The white Mason Middle School teacher who told an African-American student his classmates would “lynch” him if he didn’t do his school work was reprimanded Thursday, ordered into cultural sensitivity training and may be fired if it happens again.

According to documents released by Mason Schools, middle school teacher Renee Thole was told in a letter from district officials that “comments that make reference to harming a student are not appropriate even in jest.”

“Especially when they make reference to lynching an African-American male student. Regardless of the context this is especially insensitive given the context of race in our American history,” wrote Principal Tonya McCall in the Jan. 11 letter.

MORE: Mason, Kings schools scramble after racist incidents

“Be advised that future instances of problems in the areas we have discussed may warrant further disciplinary action to be taken against you that may lead to termination of your employment,” McCall wrote.

The student told his mother about the classroom exchange last month, and the story has since drawn national attention.

The teacher’s class was studying early American history, and McCall’s reprimand letter further states Thole – a veteran teacher with the Warren County district – later told district officials her choice of words was insensitive “and understood why they were not appropriate even if they were in context of what you had been studying in class.”

According to statements made to Mason school officials, Thole said she told the boy he was “off task” and told him to get to work.

“Approximately 10 minutes later, he still was off task … Your classmates are tired of you costing them points,” she stated.

“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,” according to the teacher’s statement.

The boy then said such a statement was racist, according to Thole.

“I immediately stopped working with my small group … and said ‘I’m so sorry. I did not mean that the way it came out,’” she wrote.

Thole then said the black student said “It’s okay. I know you were joking.”

The next day Thole said she received a phone call from the boy’s mother, Tanisha Agee-Bell.

“She was very disappointed because I do not understand my impact on the culture toward African-American students,” according to her written account. “I replied that I understand and deeply apologize for my hurtful comment. It was a statement I said without thinking and there is not a good reason for my statement.”

The 13-year-old boy’s mother told Thole she should also apologize to the entire class. The boy has since been moved into another history class.

According to Thole’s statement to district officials, her apology to the class included telling her students “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 hun (sic) anyone, doesn’t mean that didn’t happen, so —I’m sorry. If I had just taken two seconds to think before I used the word 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. (I) am deeply sorry and I hope that you can forgive me.”

Both Thole and Agee-Bell were unavailable for comment.

According to the reprimand letter, Thole was ordered to: “Refrain from using remarks that make references to harming a student; contact parent(s) immediately when there is an issue in your classroom and participate in district directed culturally responsive practices training.”

Mason school officials have publicly promised – in a message sent to school parents Thursday – to further the district’s efforts in promoting racial and cultural sensitivity among staffers and students.

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Mason High School, Ohio’s largest, names new principal

Published: Saturday, May 26, 2018 @ 9:38 AM


            Bobby Dodd meets Mason High School teachers, Mason community leaders, parents and students on Friday, May 25. CONTRIBUTED
Bobby Dodd meets Mason High School teachers, Mason community leaders, parents and students on Friday, May 25. CONTRIBUTED

The Mason City Schools Board of Education this week unanimously approved hiring Robert “Bobby” Dodd as Mason High School principal beginning Aug. 1.

Dodd will replace Dave Hyatt, who is retiring at the end of the school year and moving to Vermont.

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“We love Mr. Dodd’s commitment to connection, his experience, and exciting vision — especially his mantra of working collaboratively to find ways to say ‘yes’ to students in order to honor their ideas, hopes, and dreams,” said Jonathan Cooper, Mason’s deputy superintendent who will become superintendent on July 1.

“He is a student-centered instructional leader who is excited to co-create the next iteration of MHS.”

Dodd has served as the principal of Gahanna Lincoln High School since 2014 and was the principal of New Lexington High School for three years prior to that.

RELATED: Mason principal stepping down

Dodd developed digital academies, college summer camps, a fabrication laboratory that includes a graphics design lab which manufactures and produces products for sale around the world, Early College High School and personalized learning environments, Mason said in a news release announcing his hiring.

Dodd has received awards for his contributions as a connected educator including the 2016 NASSP National Digital Principal of the Year award.

“As difficult as it is to leave Gahanna Lincoln, I am excited to be a part of the Mason City Schools team. I can’t wait to start building relationships and help our students, staff and community do amazing things. Mason High School is one of the finest schools in the state and I hope to work with all of our stakeholders to continue the tradition of excellence,” Dodd said in the release.

MORE: 40 percent absent after Mason High school threat

Dodd received a bachelor’s degree in history from John Carroll University in 1995, a law degree from St. Thomas University in Miami Lakes, Fla., in 1999, a bachelor’s degree in information technology from DeVry University in 2000 and a Master of Arts in educational leadership from the University of Cincinnati in 2009.

Dodd and his wife, Charity, have three children, Sydney, Kaitlyn, and Sophia.

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Former Warren County school board member now district’s assistant superintendent

Published: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

Robyn Donisi
Robyn Donisi

A Franklin school board member who stepped down in January was hired as the district’s new assistant superintendent.

MORE: Monroe student battling cancer gets her wish: A high school graduation

Robyn Donisi, a veteran educator and currently the assistant superintendent of Clinton-Massie Local Schools, was selected from a field of 50 applicants for the position, according to Superintendent Michael Sander.

Donisi will be replacing Douglas Cozad, who will become the superintendent of Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools on July 1.

Sander said he was “excited” to have Donisi working on his leadership team. He said Donisi will begin her new duties in Franklin on Aug. 1.

MORE: ‘See something, say something’ working for Warren County school

The Franklin school board awarded Donisi a two-year contract with an annual salary of $100,000.

Donisi resigned her school board seat on Jan. 22 citing increased duties at work. She was elected in 2015 to her first term on the school board.

A lifelong resident of Franklin and a 1978 graduate of Franklin High School, Donisi earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Miami University and a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Dayton.

Donisi worked in Franklin City Schools for 21 years as a math and science teacher in grades four, seven and eight; as assistant principal at Franklin Junior High School; and as principal at Hunter Elementary School before moving to Clinton-Massie Local Schools as assistant superintendent.

She and her family reside in Franklin.

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Centerville mom claims autistic son held in a ‘detention room’ size of a closet

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 5:43 PM

Centerville mom troubled with way school disciplined son

The mother of a Centerville student has filed a sheriff’s report claiming that her autistic son was placed in a room with no windows on Tuesday as a form of punishment for not meeting acceptable behavior standards.

The school district said the room has a window but would not talk about the specifics of the woman’s complaints.

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Monique Williams, the mother of 11-year-old Michael Dixon, a special needs student at Watts Middle School said her son was locked in a “small room similar to a closet as a form of punishment” instead of being allowed to attend the “Jazz on the Lawn” event with other students in his class, according to the sheriff’s report.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office had a deputy go to the school to investigate the incident.

Williams alleges in the police report that a teaching aide told her that her son, who also has ADHD and asthma, “did not acquire enough points on his good behavior to attend” the event, so he had to spend time in the room.

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She said she was told other students had been placed in the room for bad behavior and that her son was not injured. Her son told her that this was not the first time he had been placed in the room.

Sarah Swan, community relations specialist for the school district, said the district would not comment on the specifics of the allegation, but provided a statement on the issue.

“We cannot go into the specifics of the situation due to student confidentiality,” she said in a statement. “There is a room located in the office area at Watts Middle School that has traditionally been used when students lose privileges. The door to the room is kept open, and it also has a window.”

The investigation is ongoing, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

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Hamilton Schools to undergo security changes this summer

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 10:11 AM

Kings Schools are 1 of a few area districts using an anti-shooter device to keep students safer in classrooms.

It will be one of the busiest summer breaks in years for Hamilton City Schools as new security measures and procedures are installed for next school year, said district officials during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Larry Knapp presented an update on a variety of school security efforts and programs all designed to enhance the safety of students and staff in the 10,000-student city school system.

MORE: Middletown High School closes on last day due to threat

School parents will receive information brochures on school emergency procedures, teachers will receive training in treating attack wounds, fire drills will be changed, and school officials are further coordinating with first responder police and fire departments.

And there will be more in-school counseling available for Hamilton students next school year.

But the most important changes are still to come, said Knapp.

These may include more armed officers in schools, bullet-proof film on school windows and classroom door barricades similar to those already in use in the Talawanda and Kings school districts.

MORE: ‘What are you waiting for?’, sheriff asks school boards

“All 13 buildings will undergo safety assessments with trained personnel,” he said in reference to school building evaluations done by local police and fire officials along with federal and Ohio Homeland Security personnel.

These security experts “know a lot more about what we can do as a school district to make our buildings safer,” said Knapp.

The new security measures will augment the current procedures already in place, many of which are staffed by armed Hamilton Police officers who patrol in the city schools.

“The Hamilton City School district will continue to share safety and security updates with our community as we improve our protocols and programs,” said Hamilton Schools Superintendent Larry Knapp.

MORE: Firearms stolen in Mason gun store break-in

“We appreciate the partnership that we have developed with the Hamilton City Police Department and look forward to working with them to keep our students, and staff safe each and every day we are in session,” said Knapp.

“You are going to see more coming out of this and more personnel devoted towards this,” he said.

The 2017-2018 school year ended for Hamilton students last week.

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