How a book called My Shadow is Purple got me fired in Georgia

In March, I read the children’s picture book My Shadow is Purple to my fifth graders. It’s an encouraging book that, while debating gender stereotypes, is also about staying true to yourself, respecting others and emphasizing the importance of inclusive communities. But after a parent complained, I was put on administrative leave. Then, during a disciplinary conference in May, I was given the choice of resigning or being fired for violating county guidelines formulated under Georgia’s vague classroom censorship laws. I have decided not to resign for a number of reasons.

I believe in students’ freedom to learn and focus on their learning. And I refuse to be complicit in any level of censorship, discrimination or harm. Prior to the public announcement of my dismissal, at the board meeting’s public comment session, several anti-LGBTQ+ and right-wing political campaigners rallied to spew vile hatred of the LGBTQ+ community under the guise of disapproving of so-called divisive concepts. No sane person would have thought that buying and reading a children’s picture book selected at the school’s Scholastic Book Fair would lead to taunting attacks from tax-exempt school enemies. The bigoted, racist utterances of a small, vocal minority should not dictate what is taught in our public schools. I am an educator regardless of where my classroom is located and speaking out against misconduct is a powerful lesson.

Academic freedom, inclusive education and diversity are not only under attack in Georgia.

Although a group of educators opposed the county’s recommendation to fire me, the Cobb County School Board voted 4-3 on partisan votes to uphold the principal’s recommendation for my August 17 firing. In doing so, the county made me the first – Notoriously, a public school teacher was fired under the state’s anti-educational censorship laws of 2022. It also sent a dangerous message: not all students are worthy of an inclusive and supportive learning environment.

Academic freedom, inclusive education and diversity are not only under attack in Georgia. Republican lawmakers have enacted educational censorship laws to silence and erase diverse identities and inclusive curriculums and the truth of history and reality. Censorship is an affront to a free society in which acceptance and appreciation of diverse ideas and viewpoints are vital to further democratic progress.

Laws like HB 1084 negatively impact the quality of education students can receive. They are intentionally vague to create uncertainty among educators, students, and parents. They create a situation for teachers in which they cannot navigate because they do not know what to say or do to support their students. As a result, the law is doing exactly what it was intended to do: get teachers to censor themselves for fear they might lose their jobs.

The students are also aware of this damage. Last year, Georgia students were silenced after speaking out against HB 1084. They know that their educational freedoms and rights are at stake and should have a voice in the process, especially when those rights are threatened.

People are relational beings and belonging is a basic need. Our experiences, truths and identities need to be reflected and affirmed. Research shows that students who see a positive representation of themselves in their curriculum achieve better academic and social outcomes. This makes inclusivity and meaningful relationships a prerequisite for equitable learning and teaching. When students are validated and supported, they take more academic risks and develop the skills they need to learn and thrive.

Culturally responsive and racially inclusive education benefits all students by instilling a sense of self and belonging and teaching the diverse perspectives between identities in our communities. It also engages students as informed, discerning, and socially responsible citizens. Without these aspects, how can educators be expected to build trust and fulfill their commitment to provide the best possible education for students?

We all need to work towards more critical awareness in public education.

Censorship threatens not only our students and teachers, but democracy at its core. We all need to work towards more critical awareness in public education. We need to be aware of the role each of us plays in supporting all students through educational policies and connected systems. Together we can uphold inclusive, affirmative education and protect academic freedoms by demanding governmental laws and school environments free from bigotry, discrimination and harm.

I urge everyone involved in public education to join me in supporting teachers in our country. Stay informed and know the local guidelines and state laws. Write letters to the editor to raise awareness of concerns within your local communities. Make your voice heard at school board meetings and in your community. Do you have school-age children? Student voices are powerful and all too often overlooked. Educate them and empower them to defend their own educational freedoms and rights.

Elections are critical to ensuring that our public schools reflect the type of education we demand for our students. Find out about your current school board members and the candidates applying for vacancies. Consider running yourself. Choose education-friendly candidates: those who advocate truthful, diverse, and inclusive education and legislation.


This is how we really protect all students, except lives and promotes a democracy with deeply engaged and empathetic participants who can work towards a more just and just society.

Students deserve nothing less.

Katherine Rinderle