Texas school administrator asks teachers to include books with “opposing” views on the Holocaust

North Texas School District Superintendent Apologizes

Originally Posted: OCT 15 21 03:47 ET

Updated: OCT 16 21 10:35 AM ET

By Ashley Killough, CNN

(CNN) – A North Texas School District superintendent apologized Thursday night after one of the district administrators told teachers that if they have Holocaust books in their classroom libraries, they should also include books that have “opposing” views on the Holocaust.

During a training session last week, a school administrator from Carroll ISD in Southlake, Texas attempted to counsel elementary teachers on how to follow the new district guidelines for auditing books. The guidelines were issued in an attempt to align with a controversial Texas law that seeks to restrict discussion of race and history in schools.

The training session was first reported by NBC News. After teachers expressed frustration and confusion over the new guidelines, Gina Peddy – executive director of programs and education for the district – cited the Holocaust as an example of a historic event that would require a teacher to keep within reach of other books with “opposing” views. .

Audio for the exchange, first reported by NBC News, was secretly recorded by a staff member and obtained by CNN. CNN has reached out to Peddy for comment but has not received a response.

“Just try to remember the concepts from (Texas House Bill) 3979,” says Peddy, referring to the new law, known as HB 3979. “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust , that you have one that opposed, that has other perspectives.

“How do you oppose the Holocaust? A teacher could be heard asking.

“Believe me,” Peddy said in a longer recording obtained by NBC. “It happened.”

The exchange, according to a source on site, happened in a hallway in the middle of a small group of employees after the training session ended.

An NBC News report on the comment sparked an uproar on social media, and District Superintendent Lane Ledbetter apologized to the community:

“I express my sincere apologies for the online article and report published today. During conversations with teachers at last week’s meeting, the comments made were in no way to express that the Holocaust was nothing less than a terrible event in history. In addition, we recognize that there are not two sides to the Holocaust, ”the statement read.

“As we continue to work on the implementation of HB 3979, we also understand that this bill does not require an opposing view on historical facts. As a district, we will work to clarify our expectations of teachers and once again apologize for any prejudice or confusion this has caused, ”he said.

State law has been a catalyst for discussion

At the heart of the incident is confusion over the law that limits conversations about race and history in schools.

Laws introduced into state legislatures such as these have been largely motivated by potential teachings from critical race theory, a burning issue for some parents.

Critical Race Theory recognizes that systemic racism is a part of American society and challenges the beliefs that allow it to thrive. While the theory was launched decades ago to examine how laws and systems promote inequality, it has taken on new urgency since a series of murders last year of black Americans by police officers, which led to to a national calculation on the breed.

Critics have criticized the theory, with conservatives accusing it of poisoning discussions about racism.

HB 3979 in Texas, which was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott and came into effect on September 1, states that a teacher cannot be compelled to discuss “a particular current event or issue. widely debated and currently controversial public policy or social affairs ”.

If a teacher engages in this kind of discussion, the teacher should “explore these issues from diverse and conflicting perspectives without showing deference to any particular perspective.”

Carroll ISD had previously published the column for teachers on how to control books in their classroom libraries, but many teachers found it confusing, the source told CNN. Several teachers were also upset that a fourth-grade teacher was reprimanded by the district school board days earlier for having “This Book is Anti-Racist” by Tiffany Jewell in the classroom, said The source.

The reprimand, which came over a complaint from a parent, made national news and contributed to a sense of deep frustration among some teachers, especially as Texas’ new law relates to curricula. study and not classroom libraries.

At last week’s meeting, teachers voiced concerns, according to the source in the room.

“The teachers were so angry,” the source said. “They stood up, screamed and retaliated in a frightening but also stimulating way.”

The source said teachers raised several questions during the meeting about the new vetting guidelines and after receiving mixed messages from the district about whether to keep their classroom libraries open during the vetting process. Peddy, according to the source, went to seek clarification from other administrators. Peddy returned and, after the training session was over, set the example of the Holocaust in the hallway as the teachers left.

According to the audio broadcast for CNN, Peddy pledged to support teachers as they begin the verification process.

“I know you feel like you’re in danger, I know that. Just leave them open, ”she said, referring to the libraries in the class. “Read the whole book, but leave your libraries open while you do it. I know you have your children’s best interests in mind and we will support you.

Clay Robison, spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association, said he was angered by comments made in the audio recording about the inclusion of opposing views on the Holocaust.

“I was angry,” he said in a telephone interview with CNN. “But, also, I was not very surprised.”

Robison noted that while the law does not specifically address books in teachers’ classrooms or specifically require that a teacher give equal weight to perspectives that deny the Holocaust, he said the law is sufficiently ambiguous to “encourage this kind of reaction”.

Robison said the Texas State Teachers Association has long opposed the bill because it is confusing and can confuse educators. Robison said teachers across the state were “angry” and fearful of the consequences of the books they included in their classrooms.

“It doesn’t force these teachers to remove these books from their shelves, but it certainly encourages parents who don’t like these books – who feel uncomfortable with these books – to put pressure on their school boards and their school administrations to… remove the books off the coast.

Since the law came into effect six weeks ago, Robison has said the Southlake incident is just one example of the confusion and frustration he expects to see during the school year. , not to mention the expected political battles.

“The presidents of the school boards are standing for election. And this is a problem that could figure prominently in school board elections, especially in conservative communities, ”he said.

This story has been updated to reflect that the audio recording was first obtained by NBC News.

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