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Cobb County teacher to learn fate after discussing book about gender identity

KIFI

By Rebekka Schramm

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    MARIETTA, Georgia (WANF) — A Cobb County teacher began testifying Thursday in a two-day tribunal to determine whether she’ll be terminated after reading aloud to her fifth-grade students a book that challenges gender norms.

Katie Rinderle taught at Due West Elementary School near Marietta. She was placed on administrative leave in March after reading a book called, “My Shadow is Purple.” The book centers on a nonbinary child who identifies neither as a boy or a girl.

The teacher’s attorney Craig Goodmark told Atlanta News First that after a parent complained, the Cobb County School District claimed her actions violated a 2022 Georgia law that says teachers must refrain from teaching divisive concepts. The law focuses on divisive concepts regarding race.

Rinderle’s attorney said the book has nothing to do with race and that Rinderle’s students voted to read it in class.

However, as of 11:15 a.m. Thursday, Sherry Culves, an attorney hired by the Cobb County School District, had made no mention to the hearing officer or to the tribunal panelists about Georgia’s Divisive Concepts Law. Instead, she alleged that Rinderle failed to adhere district policies that require teachers to inform parents about “sensitive” and “controversial” topics and allow parents to opt out of such lessons.

The district also accuses Rinderle of dishonesty, saying she failed to acknowledge the book was “inappropriate,” insisting the book was about inclusivity, not gender identity. Culves also noted that district policy prohibits teachers from using classroom instruction to espouse personal political beliefs.

At the hearing, Culves questioned Rinderle about policies that the district claims she violated.

“Is it your position that this topic was not a sensitive topic as defined by the Cobb County School District policy?” asked Culves.

“No, I did not believe this book was a sensitive topic,” said Rinderle.

“This was a book that I purchased with my own funds at the school’s book fair,” Rinderle said. “I previewed the book, and I used my professional judgement. I aligned it to the standards that support gifted education and effective education for students. And it was not – I did not believe it needed permission to read this book.”

The Cobb County School District sent a statement to Atlanta News First in June. It reads in part, “Without getting into the specifics of the personnel investigation, the district is confident that this action is appropriate considering the entirety of the teacher’s behavior and history.”

Check back with Atlanta News First for updates on this developing story.

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