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COBB COUNTY, Ga. — In a recent development that has sparked controversy within the education community, a three-member tribunal appointed by the Cobb County Board of Education has announced its decision to reject the superintendent’s recommendation to terminate veteran Georgia educator Katherine Rinderle.
The decision stems from Rinderle’s choice to read the book My Shadow is Purple to her gifted students at Due West Elementary School. It’s a book that underscores the importance of teaching children to stay true to themselves, presenting the concept of non-binary gender identity. This arises within the context of a widespread conservative reaction against the inclusion of LGBTQ+ topics in school curricula and educational materials.
Following the tribunal’s verdict, she expressed her gratitude for their consideration but voiced her disagreement with the finding that she had violated any policies.
Citing the lack of clear guidelines provided by the district, Rinderle criticized the ambiguity of the policies that led to her situation.
“The district has never provided adequate guidance on how I am supposed to know what is and what is not allowed in the classroom based on these vague policies. Prioritizing behaviors and attitudes rooted in bigotry and discrimination does not benefit students and undermines the quality of education and the duty of educators,” Rinderle said.
Rinderle, a prominent presence in Cobb County’s educational scene for many years, has garnered backing in her legal fight from the Goodmark Law Firm and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Attorney Craig Goodmark, representing Rinderle, offered his perspective on the tribunal’s decision. While acknowledging the correctness of the tribunal’s ruling against termination, he disagreed with their conclusions on two charges put forth by the Cobb County School District. Goodmark emphasized Rinderle’s accomplished teaching record and her commitment to enhancing student achievement. He defended her choice to read what they consider is an age-appropriate book selected by her gifted students, asserting that it celebrated kindness and inclusion.
Goodmark called upon the Cobb County School Board to endorse the tribunal’s recommendation to avoid termination and to dismiss the allegations of wrongdoing. He argued that any other outcome would be fundamentally unjust.
The SPLC also weighed in on the tribunal’s decision. “The tribunal’s decision sends a clear message that politically-motivated efforts that harm students and attack teachers have no place in our schools,” said Michael Tafelski, senior supervising attorney for children’s rights at the SPLC. “Ms. Rinderle courageously challenged her termination in the face of hate and bigotry. And our message to the teachers in Cobb County and across Georgia, like Ms. Rinderle, working for equity, acceptance, and inclusion in your classrooms: Please don’t stop.”
The fate of Rinderle’s career now lies in the hands of the Cobb County School Board, which will deliberate on whether to adopt, reject, or modify the tribunal’s decision during an upcoming school board meeting. This case has ignited a broader discussion about the balance between educators’ autonomy, curricular choices, and the evolving expectations for inclusivity within the classroom.