Georgia Teacher Fired After Reading Book About Gender to Fifth-Grade Class

The Cobb County School Board voted 4-3 to fire Katie Rinderle.

This past March, fifth-grade teacher Katie Rinderle read the storybook My Shadow Is Purple, by Scott Stuart, to her class. The picture-book is about a child who reflects on his mother’s shadow being “as pink as a blossoming cherry” and his father’s shadow that’s “blue as a berry” and says their shadow is purple. Although some parents expressed their support for the lesson, superintendent Chris Ragsdale recommended that Rinderle be terminated after a parent made a complaint, according to People. The district argues that Rinderle broke its rules and Georgia's new Divisive Concepts Law that prohibits teachers from using controversial topics in their instruction. 

Rinderle, a previous teacher at Due West Elementary School in Marietta, Ga., was removed from her classroom, the Cobb County School District accusing her of violating the district’s policies. She was encouraged to resign or face termination. On June 6, she was issued an official notice of termination. 

"[I am] disappointed in the district’s decision to terminate me for reading an inclusive and affirming book — one that is representative of diverse student identities," Rinderle said in a statement. The middle-school teacher sought to overturn her firing, and a tribunal of retired educators, appointed by the Cobb County Board of Education, determined that although she had violated district policies, she should not be fired. “The district is sending a harmful message that not all students are worthy of affirmation in being their unapologetic and authentic selves. 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," she continued. 

In 2022, the Georgia General Assembly passed a bill allowing parents/guardians to submit complaints about the material in their children’s textbooks and books found in the child(ren)'s school and classroom libraries. According to the SPLC, "legal advocates say the law is vague and contradicts the U.S. Constitution."

School district lawyer Sherry Culves, speaking earlier this month at the hearing, argued that “the Cobb County School District is very serious about the classroom being a neutral place for students to learn. A one-sided viewpoint on political, religious or social beliefs does not belong in our classrooms.”

Rinderle said, during last week's hearing, that her students chose the book out of the several options she offered them. My Shadow Is Purple was purchased by Rinderle at a recent school book fair. 

The school board's decision comes as parents and Republican lawmakers across the country attempt to remove books about LGBTQ+ subjects from school curriculum and libraries.

Georgia Teacher Fired After Reading Book About Gender to Fifth Grade ClassPhoto credit: People

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