A white middle school teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio has been placed on administrative leave after making a racially insensitive remark to a black student.
According to The Huffington Post, Renee Thole, a social studies teacher at Mason Middle School, made a comment about lynching to 13-year-old Nathan Bell in December.
"He was in class and the teacher told him that if he didn't get on task his friends are going to form an angry mob and lynch you," Nathan's mother, Tanisha Agee-Bell, told ABC News. "When she said that, he said back to her, 'That's racist.' She approached him and said, 'Why do you think that's racist? I would never do anything to hurt you.'"
Agee-Bell told local station WLWT-TV that her son waited a week to tell her about the uncomfortable incident because he was afraid of getting in trouble for talking back to a teacher.
Thole was placed on administrative leave after Agee-Bell, a member of the school district's diversity committee, spoke with both Thole and school officials about the incident. School district spokeswoman Tracey Carson told ABC News that Thole admitted to making the comment and "immediately recognized she had done something wrong."
Following Agee-Bell's involvement, Thole reportedly apologized to Nathan in class by saying, "sorry you were offended by what I said." Nathan's mother has since removed her son from Thole's class, and while there are reportedly no plans to fire Thole, who's worked at Mason Middle School for over a decade, a letter of reprimand has been placed in her personnel file. She has also been placed on administrative leave, and will be required to attend cultural proficiency training while the district continues their investigation.
Agee-Bell tells ABC News that she isn't convinced that Thole understands the magnitude of the situation.
"I told her, 'The fact that you're a social studies teacher and you don't understand the racial implications of what you said to my son baffles me,'" Agee-Bell said. She wants Thole removed from the classroom, telling WLWT, "She shouldn't be in the classroom. She shouldn't be in the classroom at all. And I'm not saying she should never go back in the classroom, but until she can demonstrate that she understands what the impact of the language that she used, and what she did can have, has had on my son . . . then she doesn't need to be in the classroom."
Gail Kist-Kline, superintendent of Mason City Schools, sent a letter to parents last week addressing the situation.
"As a district, we want to be very clear, racial slurs or any behavior that discriminates against others are NOT acceptable," it reads. "When adults act in a way that is not in line with our values, we lose trust. In our district, we take corrective action to address these situations, but we need to do more."
A Change.org petition calling for Thole be fired received over 3,000 signatures and has been delivered to school officials.