Cobb County

Tribunal deciding if reading book to her class will cost Cobb teacher her job enters 2nd day

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A tribunal proceeding to decide if a Cobb County teacher would keep, or lose, her job entered its second day.

Some parents were upset after Katie Rinderle read a book called “My Shadow is Purple,” a book about gender norms, to her fifth-grade class.

Parents complained about the topic in the book, which Rinderle bought at her school’s book fair.

The tribunal is happening because the Cobb County School District says Rinderle violated school policy and state law by reading it to her students.

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As a result, Rinderle’s job at Due West Elementary School became the center of a tense back-and-forth among parents, teachers, and school officials.

Behind the doors of the tribunal hearing, moments were tense and there was a lot of emotion even some outbursts.

One witness, who is a parent of a Due West student, told Channel 2′s Cobb County Bureau Chief Michele Newell she had read the book and thought it was appropriate for students. She said she’s frustrated with the district for putting Rinderle on leave.

The Due West Elementary Principal Cissi Kale, however, is on the other side of the argument, saying she no longer has confidence in Rinderle as a teacher for Cobb County Schools.

“The book is not appropriate to read to them in the classroom and it is a controversial topic,” Kale said.

As principal, she expressed her feelings to the tribunal about a book sold at her own school’s book fair, saying the book “My Shadow is Purple” is why the hearing was happening.

Rinderle has been on leave since reading the book to her class in March.

During cross-examination on Thursday, Rinderle was asked to read the description of “My Shadow is Purple.”

“This story considers gender beyond binary and a broad spectrum of color,” she read.

The district says Rinderle violated district policy and Georgia’s so-called divisive concepts law.

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“My goals are to help my s students grow academically, and also to grow as their individual beings,” Rinderle explained to Channel 2 Action News.

At the tribunal, Rinderly took the stand, and an attorney for the school district asked Kale to point out certain pages of the book.

“The character was confused about which way to go because there were pinks and blues waving at him,” Kale said. “The character was told by the teacher to choose and the character didn’t know what to do.”

Rinderle was accused of violating district policy and Georgia’s so-called divisive concepts law, which Kale noted during cross-examination on Friday.

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“I asked you if you agree that anything in the genre of LGBTQ and queer in a classroom is divisive?” Kale said at the hearing. “I believe it can be controversial. I don’t know what you mean by divisive exactly. Well, what do you think divisive means? Your honor, Ms. Rinderle has not been charged with divisive concepts. This is irrelevant.”

The so-called divisive concepts law was passed in 2022 by Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature.

The law identified nine topics teachers in Georgia were forbidden from discussing in class, mainly focusing the legislation on discussions of race. However, there was also a section about transgender athletes.

Currently, Rinderle faces charges of insubordination and willful neglect of duties, and any other good sufficient cause.

When the proceedings wrap up, the tribunal will submit a formal recommendation to the Cobb County School Board.

After that, the board will decide if they will terminate Rinderle’s employment contract.

The proceedings ended Friday night, with the tribunal to reconvene on Monday for deliberation.

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Michele Newell

Michele Newell, WSB-TV

Michele Newell has been part of the WSB-TV family since November 2021. Before moving to Atlanta, Michele worked at TV news stations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Columbus, Ohio and Steubenville, Ohio.

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