Texas school official says teachers must offer books with ‘opposing’ views on the Holocaust, superintendent apologizes
First posted December 7, 2021 9:36am EST
Last updated December 7, 2021 9:36am EST
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At a training session in the Carroll Independent School District, school official Gina Peddy told teachers that, in line with new district guidelines, which mandated access to multiple perspectives on controversial topics, they must counter books on the Holocaust with “opposing” views.
Gina Peddy is executive director of curriculum and instruction at the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, a suburb of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Statistically, Southlake leans conservative, whereas Tarrant County, where it is located, narrowly leans liberal, according to BestPlaces.
On Oct. 8, 2021, Peddy conducted a training session for elementary school teachers in the school district, discussing the types of books they can have in classroom libraries. The session took place four days after the school board voted to penalize a fourth grade teacher after a parent complained that she had sent a copy of This Book is Anti-Racist, by Tiffany Jewell, home with a child last year.
A staff member secretly recorded Peddy’s training session. Peddy advised teachers on how to adhere to the new district guidelines imposed by the state on Sept. 1, 2021. The law, H.B. 3979, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas), says educators cannot be required to discuss “current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs,” and if such discussions are engaged, they must “explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”
In the recording shared with NBC News, Peddy said, “Just try to remember the concepts of [H.B.] 3979 … And make sure that if, if you have a book on the Holocaust that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”
When asked “How do you oppose the Holocaust?” by a teacher, Peddy said, “Believe me, that’s come up.” Another teacher can be heard asking whether or not she can keep “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry and similar Holocaust books in her classroom, but it was unclear whether Peddy had heard the question.
NBC reported that Peddy did not respond for further comment.
District superintendent apologizes
On Oct. 14, 2021, Lane Ledbetter, superintendent of the Carroll school district, released a statement to families saying Peddy’s comments were “in no way to convey that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history” and that “we recognize there are not two sides of the Holocaust,” adding, “As we continue to work through implementation of HB 3979, we also understand this bill does not require an opposing viewpoint on historical facts.”
State representatives speak out
On Oct. 14, 2021, state Sen. Kelly Hancock (R) tweeted, “School administrators should know the difference between factual historical events and fiction. Southlake just got it wrong. No legislation is suggesting the action this administrator is promoting.”
U.S. Department of Education investigating Carroll
On Nov. 17, 2021, Carroll officials announced it was facing three allegations of racial and gender discrimination, according to CBS DFW. In the previous week, three students filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. The district did not offer any further details because of privacy concerns of the students, but said it was cooperating.
Southlake Mayor John Huffman called the civil rights probe a “costly distraction,” suggesting the investigation was politically motivated, as the school had initially planned to teach critical race theory before it was blocked by court action initiated by the Southlake Families PAC, which successfully received a temporary restraining order against furthering the plan.
According to CBS, Huffman took to Facebook, writing, “I don’t think I am alone in wondering if this investigation is retaliation for our voters rejecting the [critical race theory Cultural Competence Action plan (CCAP)], especially since the threat to involve the federal government was made by some CCAP supporters to the media.”
Meanwhile, other parents like Sheeza Mohsin were more open to the investigation. “When my 10th grader was in 5th grade, she had to sit through a class of social studies where there was a video of 9/11,” Mohsin said to CBS. “It was pretty much insinuated that all Muslims are terrorists and after that she got comments like, ‘Are you going to kill us? Are you a terrorist?’”
As of Dec. 6, 2021, there were no further developments.