Parents pack Mason City School board meeting over 'lynching' comment

MASON, Ohio -- Renee Thole, a Mason Middle School teacher who told a black student he could be lynched for disrupting class, will return to work, according to Mason City Schools. 

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The student's mother said Tuesday night she was prepared to give Thole a chance, but not before she and other parents took the board to task for its perceived mishandling of the issue.

School officials did not immediately suspend Thole after the incident, a move for which superintendent Gail Kist-Kline apologized in a Facebook post.

"You tried to silence me to save your image under the disguise of a personnel issue," Tanisha Agee-Bell said. Her 14-year-old son, Nathaniel, was at the center of the incident. "Contrary to popular belief, you, as elected officials, work for me."

Other parents and students also addressed the board, many of them expressing their dissatisfaction with Thole's behavior and the district's response.

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"Just how we hold our students in high regard and we discipline them to the point that … they think about it twice, we need to do the same for our teachers," parent Jeanita Cummings said.

However, others felt Thole and the district were being unfairly attacked. Robert Ransdell, who also spoke, said he believed Thole had been "targeted by these drive-by tactics" and blamed Agee-Bell's son for the incident.

Kist-Kline and other school board members promised the district's spring semester would include diversity training for staff members and the establishment of more uniform guidelines for staff misconduct. 

Kist-Kline said after the meeting she was grateful for all of the community members who took the time to address her.

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"These were very passionate and their comments were very heartfelt, so I think for us, it is even more for us to take in and reflect on," she said. 

Agee-Bell said she would wait for the results of the district's promises.

"It’s not that I expect us not to make mistakes, but I expect them to handle it better," she said.

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