Education

published : 2023-08-22

Georgia Educator Dismissed over Controversial Gender Identity Book Reading to Students

Fifth-grade teacher, Katie Rinderle, at Due West Elementary, loses her job for introducing students to 'My Shadow Is Purple'

A close-up of a worn copy of 'My Shadow Is Purple,' lit by a soft ambient light with blurred classroom materials in the background. Focus on the title of the book. Image expertly captured with a Nikon D850.

In a startling development, a school board in Georgia has eliminated a fifth-grade teacher's position after she dared to embark on a conversation about gender identity with her students. The narrative centered around a book, titled 'My Shadow Is Purple,' that contradicts the traditional interpretation of gender as a binary concept.

The educator in the eye of the storm, Katie Rinderle from Due West Elementary, who was on leave for over a month, was officially dismissed in March. Her supposedly faulted action was exposing her students to the ideas contained in the controversial book that features a nonbinary character.

Cobb County School Board, with a marginal vote of 4 to 3, decided to end Rinderle’s contract. This move arrived on the heels of last week's termination hearing and trumped a recommendation made earlier this week by a three-person tribunal that showed support for the teacher.

In the face of these events, nods of disapproval are surfacing. Rinderle's attorney, Craig Goodmark, has criticised the board's decision saying, 'The board came in, and in an act of what can only be construed an act of politics over policy, fired Katie Rinderle. We believe it's inappropriate, there's no justification for it.'

A thoughtful Katie Rinderle standing by the window of a classroom, arms crossed, with a vivid expression of determination. The blackboard in the background is decorated with colorful artwork by students. Skillfully taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

This controversial move has incited Rinderle to fight back. Rinderle exposed just how disappointed she is by saying, '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.'

Rinderle, during last week's hearing, also described how her students had chosen the debated book 'My Shadow Is Purple' from multiple options provided. The book was something she purchased at a recent school book fair.

However, the district alleges that Rinderle violated its and the state's policy - the Divisive Concepts Law that prohibits educators from incorporating controversial topics into their instruction. These accusations came after parents expressed concern about the book that was shared with their kids, prompting Rinderle’s preliminary termination in March.

Cobb County adopted this instruction guideline on divisive matters last year after the Divisive Concepts Law came into action, creating a parents' bill of rights to give parents increased leverage in their child's academic journey.

A gavel and a pair of glasses resting on a document titled 'Board of Education: Appeal,' signifying the legal battle that ensued. The image is tastefully composed with careful attention to lighting and perspective, using a Sony Alpha a7 III.

In light of the situation, Goodmark voiced Rinderle’s emotions, 'She loves being a teacher, she's committed her life to education and helping kids, so she's disappointed it went this way.' They plan to appeal the board’s decision. Appeals can be made to the state Board of Education and in court.

This incident is not isolated; it emerges amidst a national discourse where books tackling LGBTQ+ subjects are removed from school curriculums and libraries, primarily due to parent and Republican lawmaker objections.

The current state of affairs in Georgia has been summed by Goodmark saying, 'It is one of the first incidents we know about, but it's not the only thing happening in Georgia, teachers are censoring themselves.'

District officials during the hearing stated that Rinderle should have been aware that books can be a sensitive area, reflecting on a previous incident when she read 'Stacey's Extraordinary Words,' a picture book about a spelling bee by then-gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, to her students. However, Rinderle defended herself by saying that her principal had read Abrams' book, assured her there were no issues with it and she would handle any complaints.