A Georgia middle school teacher was arrested last week and accused of threatening to behead a student who told him the Israeli flag in his classroom was offensive, authorities said.
Benjamin Reese, 51, a seventh-grade teacher at Warner Robins Middle School, was arrested Dec. 8 on charges of terroristic threats and cruelty to children in the third degree, according to the Houston County Sheriff’s Office.
An incident report from the sheriff’s office lists 18 juvenile witnesses and multiple teachers and adults who overheard Reese’s alleged comments on Dec. 7.
One witness told police they heard Reese tell a student that he was going to “cut her head off,” the incident report said.
A teacher said they heard Reese yelling about a flag and calling a student antisemitic, the incident report said. The educator also told officials Reese shouted that he was going to slit the student’s throat, drag her outside and cut her head off, according to the report.
Reese could not be immediately reached for comment Friday afternoon. He posted $7,500 bond Sunday and was released from the Houston County Detention Center, according to a representative of the facility.
He requested a public defender, but no attorney had filed to represent him as of Friday, according to the district attorney’s office in Houston County.
The Houston County School District said that Reese has not returned to the middle school since the incident last week. In a statement, it said district teachers are required to follow a code of ethics, and if there is an accusation the code was broken, the district investigates and responds appropriately.
“Safety and the well-being of our students and staff is our number one priority,” the statement said.
The student who was the focus of Reese’s comments, told an officer with the sheriff’s office assigned to the school, that she and two friends were walking past Reese’s classroom when she noticed the Israeli flag. The three students went into the classroom to ask about the flag because she found it offensive, the incident report said.
Reese told the student he had the flag because “he was Jewish and has family members that still live there,” the incident report said.
The student then told Reese she found the flag offensive because Israelis are killing Palestinians. Reese then began asking if she denied the right for Israel to exist and called the student antisemitic, the incident report said.
The students then left the classroom and were followed by Reese who shouted vulgarities at them in the hallway, according to the incident report.
The officer assigned to the school and the school’s principal confronted Reese while he was preparing to leave his classroom, the incident report said.
Reese said he called the student antisemitic, the incident report said.
“He went on to say that he has not said anything racist,” the report states.
When the officer began questioning Reese, he stopped talking about his alleged comments, the report said.
Tension has been high in the country and throughout the world since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 7. Since then, there have been many alleged anti-Arab and alleged antisemitic attacks reported throughout the nation.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations Georgia, known as CAIR, said in a statement: “We welcome the swift action against Benjamin Reese including the charges and arrest in connection with the horrific threats he allegedly made to a child.”