Southlake school head asks teachers to balance Holocaust books with ‘opposing’ views


SOUTHLAKE, Texas – A senior administrator from the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake last week informed teachers that if they have a Holocaust book in their classroom, they should also provide students with access to a Holocaust book. an “opposite” view, according to an audio recording obtained by NBC News.

Gina Peddy, executive director of programs and education for the Carroll School District, made the comment Friday afternoon during a training session on books teachers can have in classroom libraries. The training came four days after the Carroll school board, responding to a parent’s complaint, voted to reprimand a fourth-grade teacher who had kept an anti-racist book in her classroom.

A Carroll staff member secretly recorded Friday’s workout and shared the audio with NBC News.

“Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979, “Peddy said in the recording, referring to a new Texas law that requires teachers to present multiple perspectives when discussing” widely debated and currently controversial “issues. “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust,” continued Peddy, “that you have one that has an opponent, who has other perspectives.”

“How do you oppose the Holocaust? A teacher said in response.

“Believe me,” Peddy said. “It happened.”

Another teacher wondered aloud if she would have to remove Lois Lowry’s “Number the Stars,” or other historical novels that tell the story of the Holocaust from the perspective of victims. It is not known if Peddy heard the question in the commotion or if she responded.

Peddy did not respond to messages seeking comment. In a written response to a question about Peddy’s remarks, Carroll spokeswoman Karen Fitzgerald said the district was trying to help teachers comply with the new state law and an updated version. update that comes into effect in December, Texas Senate Bill 3.

“Our district recognizes that all teachers in Texas are in a precarious position with the latest legal requirements,” Fitzgerald wrote, noting that the district’s interpretation of the new Texas law requires teachers to provide balanced perspectives not only during classroom instruction, but in books that are available to students in the classroom during free time. “Our goal is to help our teachers make sure they have all the professional development, resources and materials they need. Our district does not and will not require books to be removed, nor will we require classroom libraries to be unavailable. “

Fitzgerald said teachers who are unsure of a specific book “should consult with their campus principal, the campus team and program coordinators for appropriate next steps.”

Clay Robison, spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association, a union representing educators, said there was nothing in Texas’ new law explicitly dealing with classroom libraries. Robison said the guidelines on the books in Carroll, a suburban school district near Fort Worth, are an “overreaction” and a “misinterpretation” of the law. Three other Texas education policy experts agreed.

“We find it reprehensible for an educator to demand that a Holocaust denier be treated on an equal basis with the facts of history,” said Robison. “It’s absurd. It’s worse than absurd. And this law doesn’t require it.

State Senator Bryan Hughes, an East Texas Republican who drafted Senate Bill 3, denied that the law requires teachers to give opposing views on what he is doing. called the questions “right and wrong” or get rid of books that only offer one point of view on the Holocaust.

“That’s not what Bill says,” Hughes said in an interview Wednesday when asked about the Carroll book guidelines. “I’m glad we can have this discussion to help clarify what the bill says, because that’s not what the bill says.”

Six Carroll teachers – including four who were in the room to hear Peddy’s remarks – spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity, fearing that they would be punished for publicly discussing their concerns. They said district leaders sent mixed messages about appropriate books in classrooms and what actions they should take.

“Teachers are literally afraid that we will be punished for having books in our classrooms,” one elementary school teacher said. “There are no children’s books that show the ‘opposite perspective’ of the Holocaust or the ‘opposite perspective’ of slavery. Are we supposed to get rid of all the books on these topics? “

A Carroll ISD teacher hung a warning tape in front of books in a classroom after the new guidelines were released.Obtained by NBC News

The debate in Southlake over which books should be allowed in schools is part of a larger national movement led by parents opposed to lessons on racism, history and LGBTQ issues that some conservatives have falsely called critical theory of the race. A group of Southlake parents have been fighting for more than a year to block new diversity and inclusion programs in Carroll, one of Texas’ top-ranked school districts.

Late last year, one of these parents complained when her daughter brought home a copy of “This Book is Anti-Racist” by Tiffany Jewell from her teacher’s classroom library. fourth year. The mother also complained about the way the teacher responded to her concerns.

Carroll’s administrators investigated and decided not to discipline the teacher. But last week on October 4, the Carroll school board voted 3-2 to overturn the district’s decision and formally berated the teacher, sparking unease among teachers in Carroll who said they feared the board would bring them down. not protect if a parent complains about a book in their classroom.

Teachers became more concerned last Thursday, October 7, when Carroll administrators sent an email asking them to shut down their classroom libraries “until they can be verified by the teacher.” Another email sent to teachers that day included a column asking them to rate books for multiple perspectives and to put aside those with singular and dominant narratives “in such a way that they … may be considered offensive ”.

In a statement, Fitzgerald, the district spokesperson, said the training session was scheduled weeks ago in response to the new Texas law and was unrelated to the school board vote to reprimand a teacher. Fitzgerald acknowledged that the timing of the board’s disciplinary vote and the release of the new classroom library guidelines have caused “confusion and concern” among teachers.

But the district’s inconsistent messaging to staff members and parents since then has also caused confusion, teachers said.

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