The Georgia school district plans to fire a teacher after she read a book about gender identity in fifth grade, a document shows


A Georgia teacher faces firing after reading a book about gender identity to her fifth graders – some parents complained it was controversial.

The Cobb County School District (CCSD) told teacher Katherine Rinderle that he “intends to terminate her employment at Due West Elementary School” after she read the book “My Shadow is Purple” to her students as if from a School’s charge letter shows school district reviewed by CNN. The school district informed Rinderle that she was fired “for insubordination, willful misconduct, and other good and reasonable grounds.”

In the charge letter, CCSD alleged that Rinderle violated at least six county policies and administrative rules, including two policies based on Georgian laws passed last year — one restricting the teaching of “divisive concepts” and another restricting parents and guardians more Provides transparency about what is being taught to their children.

Rinderle said the school district didn’t tell her what “divisive” meant.

“They actually said it was intentionally written to leave room for different representations. So no, it was never answered to me,” Rinderle said.

The school district was made aware of the lesson after several parents complained that Rinderle introduced “a controversial topic (gender identity/fluidity) in the lesson that is not an appropriate school topic for 10- and 11-year-old students,” according to the document.

Rinderle told CNN that after reading and purchasing the book at a school Scholastic Book Fair in February, she presented the book to her students, who chose the title from a selection of books she presented to the class.

“I read it and just knew it had a great message. The message of acceptance of self and others really struck me, and every book I’ve had in my classroom is a book of acceptance,” Rinderle said. “I knew this book would fit perfectly into my classroom.”

Craig Goodmark, an attorney representing Rinderle, told CNN he and his client believe the book is not inappropriate, controversial, or divisive and disagree with the school district’s position.

Scott Stuart’s My Shadow is Purple describes itself as “a heartwarming and inspirational book about staying true to yourself.” According to a description of the book by editor Larrikin House, “this story looks beyond binary at gender in a vibrant spectrum of colors .” The book was nominated for the Australian Book Industry Award 2023.

After reading it to the class, Rinderle said the students “discussed the overall message of acceptance” and then “created a self-reflective post about their connections to their gifted side or whatever through their shadow poem.”

CCSD claimed that Rinderle “implemented this lesson without notifying administration or families in advance, or giving families an opportunity to opt-out of the lesson or discuss the issue with their children first,” the document said.

Rinderle, who has taught in Cobb County for 10 years, told CNN that with the exception of sex education classes, teachers are not required to obtain parental pre-approval of class topics before teaching them to students.

When asked if the district has a required approval process for the release of books used by teachers in the classroom, Rinderle replied that it didn’t. Teachers use their professional judgment to review books before placing them in their classrooms, she said.

CNN has reached out to the school principal for comment, but has received no response.

Rinderle explained that she was placed on administrative leave less than a week after she read the book to the students on March 8.

The teacher said she was first called into the principal’s office to discuss an email complaint from a parent who “felt this book was inappropriate”. A few days later, she met with an investigator from the school district.

The following Monday, Rinderle announced that she had been placed on administrative leave. On May 5, the district informed her that she had the option to resign or “follow the recommendation to terminate.”

After refusing to resign, Rinderle told CNN she received a June 6 charge letter in which the county informed her of its intention to fire her.

The district claimed students reported that Rinderle taught this lesson during the time allotted for math class and claimed that the teacher denied it. According to the letter, when asked to testify, Rinderle could not provide evidence that she “teached students math classes that day.”

The teacher was also accused of failing to acknowledge that it was “inappropriate” to read the book to fifth graders in a public elementary school and failing to acknowledge that the book dealt with gender identity, the district’s letter said.

According to the indictment, Rinderle was previously warned not to choose another book. In January 2022, she read and posted about the children’s book “Stacey’s Extraordinary Words” by then-Democrat gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Instagram. At the time, some parents complained about perceived political bias.

Rinderle said the district’s inclusion of the Abrams book in the indictment was “a bit ridiculous” because no problem had been brought to her regarding that book.

“I read this book and never had a problem with it. There was never a conversation about this book because I didn’t want to read the book,” Rinderle said. “My principal thought it was a great book.”

Goodmark said the reasons given by the school district for the termination remain unclear. “If you’re going to fire a teacher, it has to be done based on a policy that people can understand and predict whether or not they’re going to break it,” he said.

“All relevant facts and policies will be reviewed during the employee’s hearing,” the district said in an email. “Without delving further into the personnel investigation, the district is confident that this action is appropriate given the teacher’s overall behavior and history. The district remains committed to strictly enforcing all board policies and laws,” the Cobb County School District said in a statement to CNN.

Jeff Hubbard, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators — a teachers’ advocacy group that Rinderle represents — told CNN that the Divisive Concepts Act focuses on race and political doctrines, but that “My Shadow is Purple” doesn’t focus on both concentrated.

“This story isn’t about race or political doctrine,” Hubbard said, adding that laws like these have made teachers question what they can teach in the classroom.

Goodmark noted that the lesson on My Shadow Is Purple “involved different kinds of concepts of acceptance and diversity, both between gender identity and racial diversity and all the other ways that we’re supposed to empower our fifth graders , to interact.” each other.”

Goodmark said Rinderle’s personnel file contained “no negatives.”

“She has an excellent record. Your ratings are strong. She’s an instructor who, to my knowledge, has never received a negative review,” Goodmark said.

Rinderle remains on “paid administrative leave pending the outcome of her dismissal hearing,” Goodmark said. Her hearing is scheduled for August 3.