Craig Goodmark presents evidence in Cobb teacher Katie Rinderle’s termination tribunal. The tribunal recommended Rinderle not be terminated. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder
A panel of former educators sided with Katie Rinderle, the Cobb County teacher accused of violating state laws on parental rights and controversial topics, rejecting a decision to fire her Monday.
But the Cobb County School Board will have the final say with a vote to adopt, reject or modify the panel’s decision. The board is scheduled to meet Thursday.
“The District appreciates the work of the Tribunal Members and the Hearing Officer,” district spokeswoman Nan Kiel said in a statement. “The Board will review the Tribunal’s recommendation and looks forward to returning our entire focus on educating all of our talented students.”
The district is represented by seven members, four Republicans and three Democrats.
In March, Rinderle read her 10- and 11-year old students “My Shadow is Purple,” a picture book by Australian children’s author Scott Stuart. In the book, people who are more masculine have blue shadows and those who are more feminine have pink shadows. The protagonist, who has a purple shadow, enjoys both masculine and feminine activities and styles of dress.
Some parents felt that their children were not ready for that kind of message and that Rinderle was trying to spread a political message.
After two days of testimony, the tribunal delivered a mixed result. They found that Rinderle was untruthful when she said she did not understand that gender identity was a sensitive and controversial topic in the community.
The members found that her actions did violate some district rules, including for selecting instructional resources and dealing with controversial topics, but did not violate others, including the standard regarding parents’ rights.
They found Rinderle was not guilty of insubordination, but that she did show a willful neglect of her duties and “other good and sufficient cause” for termination.
The panel believed she should have communicated with her administrators before bringing the book in, but they did not believe her actions merited firing.
“I appreciate the tribunal’s consideration of my case and decision not to terminate me,” Rinderle said in a statement. “However, I disagree that I’ve violated any policy and that finding remains unjust and punitive. 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.”
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