Southlake school chief tells teachers to balance Holocaust books with an ‘opposition’ perspective

SOUTHLAKE, Texas – A top administrator in 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 a audio recording obtained by NBC News.

Gina Peddy, the Carroll school district’s executive director of curriculum and teaching, commented Friday afternoon on a training session where teachers can have teachers in the classroom libraries. The practice came four days after Carroll’s school board, responding to a parent complaint, voted to ban a fourth-grade teacher who kept an anti-racism book in his classroom.

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A Carroll staff member secretly recorded the training Friday and shared the audio with NBC News.

“Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979, ”Peddy said in the recording, refer to a new law in Texas which requires teachers to show a lot of perspective when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” issues. “And make sure that if you have a book about the Holocaust,” Peddy continues, “that you have one that has opposition, that has other perspectives.”

“How do you oppose the Holocaust?” answer of a teacher.

“Believe me,” Peddy said. “Go up there.”

Another teacher wondered aloud if she had to pull Lois Lowry’s “Count of the Stars,” or other historical novels that tell the story of the Holocaust from the victims ’perspective. It’s not clear if Peddy heard the question in confusion or if he answered.

Peddy did not respond to messages requesting comment. In a written response to a question about Peddy’s remarks, Carroll spokeswoman Karen Fitzgerald said the district is trying to help teachers comply with the new state law and an updated version that will take effect in December, Bill 3 of the Texas Senate.

“Our district recognizes that all Texas teachers are in a dangerous position with the latest legal requirements,” Fitzgerald wrote, noting that the district’s interpretation of the new Texas law requires teachers to provide balanced perspective not only during classroom instruction, but in books that are available to students in class while free of charge. “Our goal is to support our teachers in making sure they have all the professional development, resources and materials needed. Our district does not and will not require books to be removed or we will order that classroom libraries be unavailable. “

Fitzgerald said teachers who are unsure about a specific book should “visit with their campus principal, campus team and curriculum coordinators about appropriate next steps.”

Clay Robison, a spokesman for the Texas State Teacher Association, a union that represents educators, said there is nothing in the new Texas law that clearly communicates with classroom libraries. Robison said the book guidelines in Carroll, a suburban school district near Fort Worth, were an “excessive reaction” and a “misinterpretation” of the law. Three other Texas education policy experts agree.

“We found it disrespectful for an educator to need a Holocaust denier to get equal treatment with the facts of history,” Robison said. “That is untrue. It’s worse than nonsense. And this law does not require it. “

State Senate Bryan Hughes, an East Texas Republican who wrote Senate Bill 3, denied that the law requires teachers to give conflicting views on what he called the issue of “good and evil” or to get rid of books that offer only one insight into the Holocaust.

“That’s not what the bill says,” Hughes said in an interview Wednesday when asked about Carroll’s book guidelines. “I’m glad we can have this discussion to help explain what the bill says, because that’s not what the bill says.”

A Carroll ISD teacher hung caution tape in front of books in a classroom after spreading the new rules.Captured by NBC News

Six Carroll teachers – including four who were in the room to listen to what Peddy said – spoke to NBC News about the condition anonymously, worried they would be punished for publicly discussing their concerns. They said district leaders sent a mixed message about which books are appropriate in classrooms and what actions they should 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 view’ of the Holocaust or the ‘opposite view’ of slavery. Should we remove all books on those topics?”

The debate in Southlake over which books should be allowed in schools is part of a broader parent -led national movement that opposes teachings about racism, history and LGBTQ issues that some conservatives are wrong. classified as critical race theory. A group of parents in Southlake became fighting for more than a year to block new diversity and integration programs in Carroll, one of the top-ranked school districts in Texas.

Last year, one of the parents complained when her daughter brought a copy of “This Book Is Anti-Racist” by Tiffany Jewell from the classroom library room to the fourth-grade teacher. The mother also complained about how the teacher responded to her concerns.

Carroll’s administrators investigated and ruled against teacher discipline. But last week, on October 4, the The Carroll school board voted 3-2 to overturn the district’s decision and formal reprimand to the teacher, separating Carroll teachers who said they feared the board would not protect them if a parent complained about a book in their class.

Teachers were even more concerned on Thursday, Oct. 7, when Carroll administrators sent an email directing them to close their classroom libraries “until the teacher vetoes them.” Another email sent to teachers that day included a rubric asking them to mark books based on whether they provide multiple insights and to put aside any revealing singular, dominant narrative “in a way it … can be considered offensive. “

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