On Thursday, a Georgia school board decided along party lines to fire a fifth-grade teacher. They said she did something wrong when she read a book about gender flexibility to her class. Katie Rinderle was fired by the Cobb County School Board in a suburb of Atlanta by a vote of 4-3. This was against the advice of a group of three former teachers. After a two-day meeting, the group found that Rinderle had broken district rules, but they said she shouldn’t be fired.
She had been a teacher for 10 years when she got in trouble in March for reading the picture book “My Shadow Is Purple” by Scott Stuart at Due West Elementary School, which upset some parents. The case has gotten a lot of attention because it is a test of what public school teachers can teach in class, how much control a school system has over teachers, and whether or not parents can stop teachers from teaching something they don’t like. It comes at a time when conservatives across the country are getting angry about books and classes that talk about LGBTQ+ issues.
Rinderle didn’t say anything after the vote, but the Southern Poverty Law Center, which helped her get elected, said something on her behalf. Rinderle said in the statement, “The district is sending a harmful message that not all students are worthy of affirmation for being their honest, unapologetic selves.” “Because this decision is based on rules that are meant to be unclear, more teachers will self-censor because they don’t know where the imagined line will be drawn.The four Republicans on the board moved to fire Rinderle, while the three Democrats who tried to delay the vote but failed did not. Superintendent Chris Ragsdale, who has the support of the Republican majority, had suggested that Rinderle be fired at first.
“The district is glad that this hard problem is over. We are very serious about making sure that our classes are focused on teaching, learning, and giving kids chances to do well. “This mission is reflected in the board’s decision,” the Cobb County school district said in a press statement.
Lawyer: School Board’s Vote Reflects Politics Over Policy
Her lawyer, Craig Goodmark, told reporters after the Marietta meeting that the vote was “an act that can only be seen as politics over policy.” He also said that the board policy against teaching about controversial issues was so vague that Rinderle didn’t know what was allowed or not. The hearing panel seemed to agree with this point, because they didn’t agree with the claim that Rinderle broke district rules on purpose and with knowledge.
“It’s impossible for a teacher to know what’s on the minds of parents when she starts her lesson,” Goodmark said. “It’s not fair at all that parents with a political goal can come in from outside the classroom and get a teacher fired. That’s not fair. It’s terrible for schooling in Georgia.”
Rinderle could take her case against being fired to the state Board of Education and, if that didn’t work, to court. Goodmark said that Rinderle was thinking about what she could do. Even though she was fired right away, she still has her license and could teach somewhere else. “She will be a teacher again,” said Goodmark.
Cobb County passed a rule in 2022 that said teachers couldn’t teach about controversial topics. This came after Georgia lawmakers passed laws that year that said teachers couldn’t teach “divisive concepts” and made a parents’ bill of rights. Even though the divisive ideas law talks about teaching about race, it also says that teachers can’t “promote their own political beliefs.” The bill of rights says that parents have “the right to direct the upbringing and moral or religious training of his or her minor child.”
Rinderle may be the first Georgia public school teacher to be fired because of the rule. The board members didn’t talk about the decision, but the lawyer for the school district, Sherry Culves, said at the meeting that it was wrong to talk about gender identity and gender fluidity.
At the meeting, Culves said, “The Cobb County School District is very serious about the classroom being a neutral place for students to learn.” “Political, religious, and social beliefs shouldn’t be taught in our classrooms from just one point of view.”
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Source: ABC News