Georgia teacher fired for having book about gender identity in classroom
A divided Georgia school board voted to fire a teacher who read a book about gender identity to her students earlier this year.
Driving the news: Cobb County Board of Education members voted on Thursday to accept Superintendent Chris Ragsdale's recommendation to fire Due West Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Katie Rinderle.
- The decision reverses a tribunal panel's recommendation that she keep her job.
- The board's four Republican members voted to uphold Ragsdale's recommendation while the three Democrats voted in opposition.
Why it matters: Rinderle is one of — if not the — first educator in Georgia to lose her job in relation to a state law that puts restrictions on what teachers can introduce in the classroom, according to the AJC.
- House Bill 1178, which went into effect last year, gives parents the right to "direct the upbringing and the moral or religious training of their children" and to review instructional materials that will be used in the classroom.
- Cobb County schools last year tweaked its policy to comply with the new state law.
What they're saying: Rinderle said in a written statement released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is representing her along with the Goodmark Law Firm that she was disappointed the board voted to terminate her contract "for reading an inclusive and affirming book."
- "The district is sending a harmful message that not all students are worthy of affirmation in being their unapologetic and authentic selves," she said. "This decision, based on intentionally vague policies, will result in more teachers self-censoring in fear of not knowing where the invisible line will be drawn. Censorship perpetuates harm and students deserve better."
- Craig Goodmark, Rinderle's attorney, told Axios that "we're looking at every legal avenue," including appealing the decision to the state Board of Education.
The other side: Several people spoke in support of Rinderle's firing. One parent, Nathaniel Darnell, said he does not "believe it's appropriate for impressionable young children to be exposed to…stories about children that reject God's design for their gender."
- "Parents deserve to be treated with more respect, and to not have harmful ideologies or controversial subjects introduced behind their backs," he said.
- The Cobb County School District said in a statement that it's "pleased that this difficult issue has concluded."
- "We are very serious about keeping our classrooms focused on teaching, learning, and opportunities for success for students," the statement reads. "The board's decision is reflective of that mission."
Flashback: Goodmark previously told Axios that Rinderle purchased the book, "My Shadow Is Purple," from a district-approved book fair earlier this year.
- The book features a six-year-old child and tells a story of "being true to yourself and moving beyond the gender binary," according to its description.
- Goodmark said Rinderle was removed from the classroom after one parent complained about the book.
Zoom out: Other states across the country have passed similar laws designed to curtail what subjects educators can or can't teach students.
- Bans on critical race theory and limiting how racial issues are taught in conservative-leaning states and school districts have led some educators to stop teaching Black history lessons.
- States have also enacted policies to prevent educators from teaching students about sexual orientation or gender identity.
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