The Cobb County School Board voted 4-3 on Thursday (August 17) to officially terminate a fifth-grade teacher suspended earlier this year for reading a book about gender identity to her students.
Katie Rinderle, a teacher at Due West Elementary School in Marietta, was fired in June after reading “My Shadow is Purple” by Scott Stuart, a book she bought at the school’s book fair, to her class. The book empowers children to see beyond the gender binary, with the main character saying, “My dad has a shadow that’s blue as a berry, and my Mom’s is as pink as a blossoming cherry. There’s only those choices, a 2 or a 1. But mine is quite different, it’s both and it’s none.’
Rinderle was fired after a parent complaint prompted an investigation that determined reading the book violated Georgia’s “divisive concepts” law signed by Gov. Bran Kemp in 2022.
SB 377 prohibits educators from teaching about “divisive concepts,” specifically prohibiting the promotion of claims that the United States is fundamentally or systematically racist or that any group of people is inherently racist or oppressive. The law has no specific mention of discussions or instructions related to gender.
Last week, a three-personal tribunal held a hearing to make a non-binding recommendation to the school board on whether her termination should be upheld. The tribunal ruled that Rinderle did not violate insubordination rules and should be able to keep her job, adding that she did, however, violate the district’s policies on books allowed in the classroom.
Despite the tribunal’s recommendation, the school board still opted to fire Rinderle.
The vague nature of the SB 377’s language has prompted teachers to complain it would be difficult to follow.
“Teachers are now in a state of uncertainty,” Craig Goodmark, Rinderle’s attorney, said, arguing that the situation was a direct result of the ambiguous language of the legislation, according to 11 Alive. “They don’t know where the line is, who might complain, or when complaints will be made. Consequently, they are not even approaching the line.”