Books on Holocaust should be balanced with 'opposing' views, school leader tells teachers

SOUTHLAKE (Texas) Last week, a top administrator from the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake suggested that teachers give students access to a book on the Holocaust if they have one in their classroom. According to an audio recording, NBC News obtained.
Gina Peddy was the Carroll school district's executive director of curriculum, instruction. She made the comment during a session about which books teachers can keep in their classroom libraries. Four days ago, the Carroll school board voted to discipline a fourth-grade teacher for having an anti-racism text in her classroom.

Carroll staff secretly recorded Friday's training and shared it with NBC News.

Try to recall the concepts of [House Bill] 379, Peddy stated in the recording. This refers to a Texas law that requires teachers present multiple perspectives on controversial topics. Peddy said that it was important that you have another book about the Holocaust if you are going to be reading it.

One teacher responded, "How do you resist the Holocaust?"

Believe me, Peddy said. It's true.

Another teacher asked if she would need to get Number the Stars by Lois Lowry or other historical novels that depict the Holocaust through the eyes of the victims. Peddy may not have heard the question or answered it.

Peddy did not reply to requests for comment. Carroll spokeswoman Karen Fitzgerald stated that the district was trying to assist teachers to comply with the new Texas law. The updated version will be in effect in December.

Fitzgerald wrote that our district acknowledges that Texas teachers are in a precarious situation due to the latest Texas laws. Fitzgerald noted that the district's interpretation of Texas law requires teachers not only to give balanced perspectives during classroom instruction but also in the books that students have access to during their free time. Our goal is to help teachers get all the professional development, resources, and materials they need. We have not, and will not, mandate the removal of books or make classroom libraries unavailable.

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Fitzgerald stated that teachers who are uncertain about a book should consult with their campus principal, team or curriculum coordinators to determine the best next steps.

Clay Robison is a spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association. This union represents educators. He said that nothing in the Texas law specifically addresses classroom libraries. Robison stated that Carroll's book guidelines, which are being developed by a suburban school district in Fort Worth, is an overreaction to the law and misinterpretation. Three other Texas education policy experts concurred.

Robison stated that it was unacceptable for educators to demand Holocaust deniers to be treated equally with historians. It is absurd. It's even worse. It is not required by law.

Bryan Hughes, a Republican from East Texas, was the author of Senate Bill 3. He denied that the law required teachers to express opposing views on matters of good or evil.

Hughes stated that this is not what the bill said when Hughes was asked Wednesday about the Carroll book guidelines. We are glad to have this discussion, as it will help clarify what the bill means.

Six Carroll teachers, including four of them who were present to hear Peddy's remarks, spoke to NBC News under anonymity. They were concerned that their public concerns would lead to punishment. They claimed that district leaders had sent mixed messages regarding which books should be used in classrooms and the actions that they should take.

An elementary school teacher stated that teachers are afraid of being punished for having books in their classes. Children's books do not show the opposing view of the Holocaust and the opposing view of slavery. Do we have to throw out all books about these subjects?

Image: After the new policy was published, a Carroll ISD teacher placed caution tape in front books in a classroom. (Retrieved from NBC News

Southlake's debate about whether books should be allowed into schools is part a larger national movement that parents are opposed to lessons on history, racism and LGBTQ issues. Some conservatives mistakenly call this critical race theory. For more than a decade, a group of Southlake parents have been trying to stop Carroll's inclusion and diversity programs. Carroll is one of the most prestigious school districts in Texas.

One of the parents complained last year when her daughter brought home a copy Of This Book Is Anti-Racist, by Tiffany Jewell, from her fourth grade teacher's class library. Mother also complained about the way her teacher handled her concerns.

Carroll administrators examined the matter and decided not to discipline the teacher. Carroll administrators investigated and decided against disciplining the teacher.

Teachers were more worried when Carroll administrators sent them an email on Oct. 7 asking them to close their classroom libraries. This rubric asked teachers to rate books based upon whether they offer multiple perspectives and to discard any dominant narratives that are so offensive that they... might be considered offensive.

Fitzgerald, the district spokeswoman said that the training session was scheduled weeks ago to respond to the Texas law. It was unrelated to the school board vote to discipline a teacher. Fitzgerald acknowledged that confusion and concern among teachers resulted from the timing of the board's disciplinary vote as well as the publication of new guidelines for class libraries.

Teachers said confusion was also caused by inconsistent messages from the district to parents and staff since then.

Image: This week, Carroll ISD distributed new rules regarding classroom libraries to teachers. (Retrieved from NBC News

After NBC News published an article about the district's book instructions and plans for staff-training that afternoon, Carroll Superintendent Lane Ledbetter sent an e-mail to parents denying that the district was asking teachers remove books. However, the district had previously instructed teachers to close their classroom libraries until all books could be vetted.

Ledbetter sent a Friday note to parents stating that she wanted to correct the record. The district has not required that books be taken from the classroom libraries of teachers. The district also has not offered any training in removing books.

According to audio from the training session, Carroll teachers received a different message about an hour before Ledbetters' note went out Friday afternoon. This was according to NBC News staff recording.

We know that classroom libraries can't be used until they are vetted. An assistant principal can be heard telling elementary school teachers to follow the rubric provided by the district in order to decide which books are appropriate. You will need to return to school to separate the books that have been vetted. Students should also be able to access those books. Students don't need to have the other books until they are vetted.

One teacher can be heard complaining that the district's guidelines for determining classroom book appropriateness are too subjective. One teacher said that she felt unsafe keeping books in her classroom after the vote of the school board to discipline one of her colleagues.

Peddy, the district director of curriculum, and instruction arrived at the training after 30 minutes and tried to comfort the teachers. She encouraged them to not worry and said that the district leaders were there for them.

Peddy stated in the recording that we are in the middle a political mess and acknowledged the fear of teachers. You are in the middle a political mess. We just have to try our best.

According to the recording, Peddy told teachers to delay closing their classes libraries. Peddy said that she expected Fitzgerald, the district spokesperson, to issue a statement in reply to the NBC News article.

Peddy stated in the recording that there was a general statement emanating from the district. It is unclear what it will say. So we will have to wait to see what it says and then come back to determine what the library classrooms look like.

Peddy informed several teachers that she would not change the messages after they complained. She also told them to leave the recording and call another district leader, Courtney Carpenter, for clarification.

According to the teachers present, Peddy returned to class a few minutes later. Peddy spoke in the audio and explained that teachers should work to ensure that books in their classrooms present opposing views. She cited the Holocaust as an example. Peddy spoke with Carpenter and stated that teachers should ignore Carpenter's earlier instruction to close their classroom libraries while they read through all the books. This could take several weeks.

Carpenter didn't respond to my request for comment. Fitzgerald stated that the Holocaust example provided by Peddy was not Carpenter's.

Peddy shared with teachers that he knows you feel it puts you at risk. That is something I know. But I also know we will do the best for our children. We will stand by you in this.

A few minutes later, the recorder was still in use after the session had ended. Teachers gathered in a hallway to discuss what they had just heard.

Someone who claims I should have an opposing viewpoint to the Holocaust in my library is making me mad, as a teacher stated, her voice shaking.

Another responded: They don't understand what they did. They are likely to lose amazing teachers, including me.