Teacher attempts to overturn firing after reading allegedly prohibited book to 5th grade class

A fifth-grade teacher in Georgia is fighting to get her job back after being fired for reading a gender identity book to her students that was allegedly prohibited under state law.

(Video Credit: FOX 5 Atlanta)

Friday marked the second and final day of a termination hearing for Due West Elementary teacher Katie Rinderle. She has been on leave since the week after the incident. Rinderle has been a teacher for ten years with a purportedly spotless record. She was fired back in March for reading the book “My Shadow Is Purple,” which features a nonbinary character, challenging the concept that there are only two genders. The teacher was originally given the option of resigning or termination proceedings would begin.

“When I saw the book, at the book fair, I read it. I thought it was a wonderful book,” Rinderle stated on the stand. The teacher claimed her students chose the book out of several options that she gave them.

Rinderle claimed that the book was “about inclusivity, balance, acceptance, and being true to yourself.”

“The hearing was initiated under a state law that protects teachers from unjustified firing. A panel of three retired school principals will make a recommendation on whether Rinderle should keep her job and submit it to the school board, which will decide to either accept or change the recommendation. The panel has five [days] to make their recommendation, which the board plans to vote on at their next meeting,” Fox News reported.

(Video Credit: FOX 5 Atlanta)

If the ruling goes against Rinderle, she could appeal it to the State Board and take it to court.

“This termination is unrelated to education,” Rinderle’s lawyer Craig Goodmark argued in front of the panel. “It exists to create political scapegoats for the elected leadership of this district. Reading a children’s book to children is not against the law.”

According to the Cobb County School District, the teacher broke the school district’s rules and Georgia’s new Divisive Concepts Law. Both of those prohibit teachers from using controversial topics such as gender identity in the classroom.

When parents found out about the book being read to their children, they complained which resulted in Rinderle being terminated.

“Introducing the topic of gender identity and gender fluidity into a class of elementary grade students was inappropriate and violated the school district policies,” Sherry Culves, an attorney for the school district, asserted.

Rinderle said that she found the book “to be appropriate” and not a “sensitive topic,” which is hard to believe. She contended that the book imparts a broader message for gifted students and addresses “their many interests and feeling that they should be able to choose any of their interests and explore all of their interests.”

The rule on controversial subjects was implemented last year after the passage of the Divisive Concepts Law and created a parents’ bill of rights, giving parents more say in their children’s education and “the right to direct the upbringing and the moral or religious training of his or her minor child.”

“The Cobb County School District is very serious about the classroom being a neutral place for students to learn,” Culves remarked. “One-sided instruction on political, religious or social beliefs does not belong in our classrooms.”

Rinderle’s attorney insists that banning “controversial issues” is too vague.

The district also says that it wants the teacher gone because administrators claimed she was “uncoachable.”

“The school district has lost confidence in her, and part of that is her refusal to understand and acknowledge what she’s done,” Culves pointed out, citing Rinderle’s failure to take responsibility for her actions and to apologize to parents as well as the school principal.

Rinderle reportedly told Culves over and over that she had no idea what parents’ beliefs were or exactly what content they would find offensive. Again, something many find very hard to believe.

“Can you understand why a family might want the chance to discuss the topic of gender identity, gender fluidity or gender beyond binary with their children at home first before it is introduced by a public school teacher?” Culves asked the teacher during the hearing.

Culves charged that the teacher should have gotten permission from the principal before reading the book to the students. She also asserted that Rinderle should have given parents a chance to opt their children out of the reading.

“This is not part of the curriculum, it’s not part of what we teach in fifth grade,” Due West Elementary Principal Cissi Kale bluntly stated.

District officials claim that Rinderle should have known books were a sensitive area after parents complained when she read “Stacey’s Extraordinary Words,” a picture book about a spelling bee by then-gubernatorial Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams.

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