Jerseys worn by Kings schools students playing on a recreational basketball team have drawn national attention for their racist nature. Tony Rue took photos of jerseys at a recreational league basketball game held Sunday at West Clermont Middle School. (Photo courtesy WCPO-TV)
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 reference 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.
And days later, Mason Schools officials are apologizing for a white teacher’s “lynch” remark to an African-America middle school student and promising changes.
“We’re going to work hard on this,” said Kings spokeswoman Dawn Gould, referring to the multiple efforts by district officials in the 4,300-student district to address concerns of the community regarding an incident involving racist youth-league jerseys.
On Friday, Kings officials were planning to address students from Kings High School about the racist jerseys as part of regularly scheduled group meetings.
Both districts are largely within the Deerfield Township 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 among 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 in the basketball team’s wearing of the racist jerseys.
McKiernan did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Kings officials said as of Thursday he had yet to submit a written resignation letter to the board, which next meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Kings Education Center.
WCPO-TV and the Associated Press contributed to this report.