UPDATED at 2 p.m.:
The leader of Mason Schools cites “uptick” of racist remarks in schools and community and warns they will not be tolerated.
Superintendent Gail Kist-Kline sent an email message Thursday to school parents in Warren County’s largest school system in the aftermath of a district teacher using an insensitive and historically deadly racial remark with an African-American student.
“We have seen an uptick in the number of racially and culturally insensitive comments in our schools and community,” wrote Kist-Kline.
“Sometimes these are said out of genuine ignorance. As a district, we want to be very clear, racial slurs or any behavior that discriminates against others are NOT(sic) acceptable.
“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. We will continue to invest in training and resources on culturally proficient practices for administrators, educators and classified staff members that lift up our district’s values. We must ensure that ALL(sic) Mason City Schools’ students are welcomed, valued and cared for while at school,” she wrote.
“Now is the time for us to be courageous and have explicit conversations about racism, sexism, and other discrimination that threaten our greatness. Everyone has the responsibility to act when we see issues in our schools and community.
We will continue to engage our community so that we are all working to enhance the climate in our schools. We are best when we bring out the best in each other. Let’s work together, hold each other accountable, and lift up our values,” said Kist-Kline.
They are neighboring Warren County school districts, share the same township and are among the top academic performers among all Southwest Ohio schools.
But this week finds officials at both Kings and Mason schools scrambling in the wake of incidents that involve race that have drawn national attention.
Kings this week saw a school board member announce his pending resignation after his son was among a non-school, recreational basketball team – using a Kings gym – to be seen wearing jerseys with racist slurs printed as their backs.
And days later, Mason Schools officials are apologizing for a white teacher’s “lynching” remark to an African-America middle school student and promising changes.
“We’re going to work hard on this,” said Kings Spokeswoman Dawn Gould, referencing the multiple efforts by district officials in the 4,300-student district to address concerns of the community regarding the incident.
On Friday, Kings officials were planning to address students from Kings High School about the racist jerseys as part of a regularly scheduled group meetings.
Both districts are largely within the Deerfield Twp. borders and are among the most affluent communities in Greater Cincinnati’s northern suburbs.
Kings’ enrollment is 2.3 percent African-American, while black students comprise 4 percent of Mason’s 10,400 students.
Both districts are regularly cited by national publications as being among the academically highest quality performers of Ohio’s 608 public school systems.
“Kings is a high-performing district with great students. Like many other schools around the country, this recent issue is an area we need to work on,” Gould said.
Mason Schools officials said the December classroom incident at Mason Middle School was a clear violation of proper behavior by one of their teachers. The district has acknowledged that a teacher made a mistake after a black student reported that he was told he might be lynched if he didn’t get back to work, according to the Associated Press.
Tanisha Agee-Bell said a white teacher at Mason Middle School made the comment to her 13-year-old son during class in December.
“Sometimes we mess up. Clearly that was the case here,” said Mason schools spokeswoman Tracey Carson. “And even though this teacher did not set out to hurt a child – clearly that happened too.”
The teacher - Renee Thole – faces district disciplinary action but district officials would not comment further on what job actions she may face.
“Our district will continue to invest in training and resources on culturally proficient practices for administrators, educators and classified (non-teaching) staff members that lift up our district’s values,” said Carson.
On Tuesday, Kings school board member Kerry McKiernan announced his intention to retire during an emotional exchange at a board meeting, saying he needed to do so to be accountable for his son’s role the basketball team’s wearing of the racist jerseys.
McKiernan did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Kings officials said as of Thursday he has yet to submit a written resignation letter to the board, which next meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Kings Education Center at 1797 King Ave.
WCPO-TV and the Associated Press contributed to this report.