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A Georgia teacher has been fired for reading a book about gender identity to her fifth grade class earlier this year.
The Cobb County School Board in the Atlanta area voted 4-3 on Thursday to fire teacher Katie Rinderle from Due West Elementary School. The vote was split down party lines, with the board’s four Republicans voting in favor of firing, and the three Democrat members voting against.
The teacher’s firing was effective immediately.
The issue with Rinderle began in March, when parents complained about Rinderle reading a picture book called “My Shadow Is Purple” to her fifth-grade class.
In firing Rinderle, the school board overrode the recommendation of a panel of three retired educators, which found that Rinderle had violated district policies, but should not be fired.
However, Superintendent Chris Ragsdale had recommended firing Rinderle.
“The district is 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 board’s decision is reflective of that mission,” the Cobb County school district said in a press release after the vote.
School district lawyer Sherry Culver said that it was inappropriate to discuss the topic of gender identity with students.
“The Cobb County School District is very serious about the classroom being a neutral place for students to learn,” Culver said.
“One-sided instruction on political, religious or social beliefs does not belong in our classrooms,” she added.
Rinderle was represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and released a statement on the situation after the board’s decision, saying she is “disappointed” in the district’s decision to fire her 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,” Rinderle said in her statement.
“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 added.
Rinderle, who has been a teacher for a decade, will be able to appeal her firing to the state education board and also in court if she decides to do so. Her attorney said she is considering her options.
Rinderle may be the first teacher in Georgia to be fired over a new state law limiting what material teachers can expose students to in the classroom.
The new law gives parents the right to “direct the upbringing and the moral or religious training of their children” and gives them access to curriculum materials.
“It ensures that all of our state and nation’s history is taught accurately because here in Georgia, our classrooms will not be pawns to those who indoctrinate our kids with their partisan agendas,” Governor Brian Kemp said last year when he signed the bill.
Last year, the Cobb County school district changed its policies to be in line with the law.
Inappropriate curriculum content has become a hot-button issue for parents over the last few years. Parents across the country have spoken out against their children being introduced to the concept of gender identity, as well as what they consider inappropriate sexual content at school.