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Cobb teacher fired after reading book about gender norms to fifth grade students

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The Cobb County School Board voted to terminate a teacher after she read a book about gender norms to her fifth-grade class.

In a board meeting Thursday evening, the board voted 4-3 to fire Katie Rinderle.

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Rinderle, a longtime educator in the Cobb County School District, read a book called “My Shadow is Purple,” a book about gender norms.

The termination comes a week after a tribunal proceeding was held to decide if she would keep, or lose, her job. The tribunal determined that she did violate part of Georgia’s new divisive concepts law, but they recommended that she be able to keep her job.

Rinderle told the three-person tribunal she believes the book is “appropriate” because it encourages children to be true to themselves.

According to a statement from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Rinderle was removed from her classroom in March after a parent complained about her reading the ‘My Shadow is Purple’ book to students.

Superintendent Chris Ragsdale recommended the termination of the teacher.

Ragsdale claimed the book “violated Georgia’s 2022 classroom censorship law banning so-called divisive concepts, mostly about race, even though legal advocates say the law is vague and contradicts the U.S. Constitution.”

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In a statement, Rinderle expressed her disappointment in the district and claims the district is sending “a harmful message.”

“I am disappointed in the district’s decision to terminate me for reading an inclusive and affirming book — one that is representative of diverse student identities,” Rinderle said. “The district is sending a harmful message that not all students are worthy of affirmation in being their unapologetic and authentic selves. This decision, based on intentionally vague policies, will result in more teachers self-censoring in fear of not knowing where the invisible line will be drawn. Censorship perpetuates harm and students deserve better.”

In the statement from SPLC, Attorney Craig Goodmark claimed there was no legitimate explanation for the termination.

Mike Tafelski, senior supervising attorney for children’s rights at the SPLC, said they are disappointed in the decision.

Channel 2′s Veronica Griffin spoke with Jeff Hubbard, president of Cobb County Association of Educators. He said the school board’s decision essentially puts all Georgia teachers on notice.

“If you do anything that angers well-connected parents. Whether it’s intentional or not an investigation can be rushed against you and you can lose your job,” he said.

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