SOUTHLAKE, Texas (AP) — A Texas school district administrator told teachers that if they have books about the Holocaust in their classrooms, they should also have books that offer “opposing” or “other” viewpoints on the subject.
Gina Peddy, the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, which is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, issued the directive last week during a training session about which books teachers can have in their classroom libraries. A staff member secretly made an audio recording of the training session and shared it with NBC News, which broke the story.
In the recording, Peddy told the teachers to remember a new Texas law that requires teachers to present multiple perspectives when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” issues. 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.”
“How do you oppose the Holocaust?” one teacher asked.
“Believe me,” Peddy said. “That’s come up.”
Peddy did not respond to a message-seeking comment left Friday by The Associated Press.
Texas and some other Republican-controlled states this year moved to regulate what can be taught about race-related ideas in public schools and colleges amid the nation’s racial reckoning after last year’s police killing of George Floyd.
Many Republicans have invoked the teaching of “critical race theory,” which argues that laws have preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race and that the country was founded on the theft of land and labor.
Karen Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the Carroll school district, said in a written statement to NBC News that the district is trying to help teachers comply with the law. She said the district’s interpretation of it requires teachers to provide balanced perspectives during classroom instruction and in books offered in the classroom. She said the district won’t require that books be removed.
Fitzgerald said teachers who are unsure about a specific book “should visit with their campus principal, campus team and curriculum coordinators about appropriate next steps.”
Clay Robison, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, a union representing educators, said the district’s book guidelines are an “overreaction” and a “misinterpretation” of the law. Three other Texas education policy experts agreed.
“We find it reprehensible for an educator to require a Holocaust denier to get equal treatment with the facts of history,” Robison said. “That’s absurd. It’s worse than absurd. And this law does not require it.”
Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes, who wrote the Texas bill, denied that it requires teachers to provide opposing views on what he called matters of “good and evil” or to get rid of books that offer one perspective on the Holocaust.
“I’m glad we can have this discussion to help elucidate what the bill says, because that’s not what the bill says,” Hughes said.
The school district posted a statement on Facebook from Superintendent Lane Ledbetter offering an “apology regarding the online article and news story.” He said Peddy’s advice to teachers was “in no way to convey that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history.”
He also said: “Additionally, we recognize there are not two sides of the Holocaust,” and, “we also understand this bill does not require an opposing viewpoint on historical facts.” He said the district will work to clarify expectations for teachers and “apologize for any hurt or confusion this has caused.”