Teachers told to balance Holocaust books with ‘opposing’ views by Texas school chief

Teachers in a Texas city have been told if they have book on the Holocaust in the classroom they should also have one offering an “opposing” view.

The instruction by a school boss to staff in Southlake, which lies 26 miles northwest of Dallas, was secretly captured on an audio recording obtained by NBC News.

Gina Peddy, an executive director of the Carroll Independent School District, was speaking during a training session on which books teachers can have in classroom libraries.

It came four days after the Carroll school board, responding to a parent’s complaint, voted to reprimand a teacher who had an anti-racism book in her classroom.

In the recording, Ms Peddy told staff to “remember the concepts” of a new state law that requires teachers to present different points of view when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” issues.

Specifically referring to the wartime Nazi genocide of six million Jews, she said: “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”

In response, one teacher said: “How do you oppose the Holocaust?”

Ms Peddy told them: “Believe me. That’s come up.”

Speaking afterwards, one Carroll teacher told NBC News: “Teachers are literally afraid that we’re going to be punished for having books in our classes.

“There are no children’s books that show the ‘opposing perspective’ of the Holocaust or the ‘opposing perspective’ of slavery.

“Are we supposed to get rid of all of the books on those subjects?”

As the Superintendent, I express my sincere apology regarding the online article and news story. During the conversations with teachers, comments made were in no way to convey the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history. To read full statement, see email. pic.twitter.com/0cQElEbDId

— Carroll ISD (@Carrollisd) October 15, 2021

Another teacher hung caution tape in front of the books in a classroom after the new guidelines were circulated.

In a statement issued following Ms Peddy’s remarks, Carroll spokeswoman Karen Fitzgerald said the district was trying to help teachers comply with the new state law and an updated version that comes into effect in December.

She said: “Our district recognises that all Texas teachers are in a precarious position with the latest legal requirements.

“Our purpose is to support our teachers in ensuring they have all of the professional development, re-s and materials needed.

“Our district has not and will not mandate books be removed nor will we mandate that classroom libraries be unavailable.”

Teachers who were unsure about a specific book “should visit with their campus principal, campus team and curriculum coordinators about appropriate next steps,” she added.

But Clay Robison, of the Texas State Teachers Association, said there was nothing in the new Texas law explicitly dealing with classroom libraries and accused the school district of an “overreaction” and a “misinterpretation” of the law.

He said: “We find it reprehensible for an educator to require a Holocaust denier to get equal treatment with the facts of history.

“That’s absurd. It’s worse than absurd. And this law does not require it.”

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State senator Bryan Hughes, who drafted the law, also denied it forced teachers to provide opposing views on what he called matters of “good and evil” or to get rid of books that offer only one perspective on the Holocaust.

Carroll superintendent Lane Ledbetter later posted on the district’s Facebook page that comments made during the meeting with teachers were “in no way to convey that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history”.

“Additionally, we recognize there are not two sides of the Holocaust,” he wrote in the post.

The debate in Southlake over which books should be allowed in schools is part of a broader national movement led by parents opposed to lessons on racism, history and LGBTQ issues.

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