SOUTHLAKE, Texas – A top administrator with the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake advised teachers last week that if they have a book about the Holocaust in their classroom, they should also offer students access to a book from an “opposite” perspective, according to an audio recording. obtained by NBC News.
Gina Peddy, Carroll School District’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, made the comment Friday afternoon during a training session that books teachers can have in classroom libraries. The training came four days after the Carroll school board, which responded to a parent’s complaint, voted to reprimand a fourth-grade teacher who had kept an anti-racism book in his classroom.
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A Carroll employee secretly recorded Friday night training and shared the audio with NBC News.
“Just try to remember the concepts [House Bill] 3979, ”Peddy said in the recording, referring to a new Texas law that requires teachers to present multiple perspectives when discussing“ highly debated and currently controversial ”issues. “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust,” Peddy continued, “that you have one that has an opposition that has other perspectives.”
“How are you against the Holocaust?” said a teacher in response.
“Believe me,” Peddy said. “It’s come up.”
Another teacher wondered aloud whether she should pull “Number Stars” down by Lois Lowry or other historical novels that tell the story of the Holocaust from the perspective of the victims. It is not clear if Peddy heard the question in the tumult, or if she answered.
Peddy did not respond to requests for comment. In a written response to a question about Peddy’s remarks, Carroll’s spokeswoman Karen Fitzgerald said the district is trying to help teachers comply with the new state law and an updated version that takes effect in December, the Texas Senate Bill 3.
“Our district recognizes that all Texas teachers are in a precarious situation with the latest legal requirements,” Fitzgerald wrote, noting that the district’s interpretation of the new Texas law requires teachers to provide balanced perspectives, not just while teaching in the classroom. but in the books available to students in class in their spare time. “Our purpose is to support our teachers in ensuring that they have all the professional development, resources and materials needed. Our district does not have and will not have mandate books removed, nor will we impose that class libraries are not available. ”
Fitzgerald said teachers who are in doubt about a particular book “should visit their campus leader, campus team and curriculum coordinators about appropriate next steps.”
Clay Robison, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, a union that represents educators, said there is nothing in the new Texas law that explicitly addresses class libraries. Robison said the book guidelines in Carroll, a suburban school district near Fort Worth, are an “overreaction” and a “misinterpretation” of the law. Three other Texas education policy experts agreed.
“We find it reprehensible for an educator to demand a Holocaust denier in order to get equal treatment with the facts of history,” Robison said. “It is absurd. It’s worse than absurd. And this law does not require it. ”
State Senator Bryan Hughes, a Republican in East Texas who wrote Senate Proposition 3, denied that the law requires teachers to give opposing views on what he called questions of “good and evil” or to get rid of books that only offer a perspective on the Holocaust.
“That’s not what the bill says,” Hughes said in an interview Wednesday when asked about the guidelines for Carroll books. “I’m glad we can get this discussion to help shed light on what the bill says, because that’s not what the bill says.”
Six Carroll teachers – four of whom were in the room to hear Peddy’s remarks – spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity, worried they would be punished for discussing their concerns in public. They said district leaders have sent mixed messages about which books are appropriate in the classrooms and what actions to take.
“Teachers are literally afraid that we will be punished for having books in our classes,” said one elementary school teacher. There are no children’s books that show the ‘opposite perspective’ of the Holocaust or the ‘opposite perspective’ of slavery. Should we get rid of all the books on these topics? ”
The Southlake debate over which books should be allowed in schools is part of a broader national movement led by parents who oppose lessons about racism, history and LGBTQ issues that some conservatives have mistakenly labeled as critical race theory. A group of Southlake parents has been fighting for more than a year to block new diversity and inclusion programs at Carroll, one of the top-ranked school districts in Texas.
Late last year, one of those parents complained when her daughter brought home a copy of “This Book is Anti-Racist” by Tiffany Jewell from her fourth-grade classroom teacher. The mother also complained about how the teacher responded to her concerns.
Carroll administrators investigated and decided not to discipline the teacher. But last week, on October 4, the Carroll school board voted 3-2 to overturn the district’s decision and formally reprimanded the teacher and trigger unrest among Carroll teachers, who said they fear the board will not protect them if a parent complains about a book in their class.
Teachers became more concerned last Thursday, Oct. 7, when Carroll administrators sent an email asking them to close their class libraries “until they can be examined by the teacher.” Another email sent to teachers that day included a box asking them to rate books based on whether they provide multiple perspectives and to set aside anyone who presents unique, dominant narratives “in such a way. that it … can be considered offensive. “