During a training session with teachers last week, a Texas school district administrator instructed teachers to present “opposing” perspectives about the Holocaust in their classrooms.
Gina Peddy, the Carroll Independent School District’s executive director of curriculum and instruction in Southlake, Texas, was secretly recorded during the October 8 staff meeting. The audio of the exchange between Peddy and teachers attending the meeting was shared with NBC News.
The training session happened four days after a fourth-grade teacher in the district was reprimanded by the school board for having a book entitled “This Book Is Anti-Racist” in their classroom. Parents of a child in the class had complained to the district that the book went against their “morals and faith.”
During the meeting, Peddy emphasized that teachers in the district should abide by newly-passed state statutes. “Try to remember the concepts of [Texas House Bill] 3979,” she said, referring to a Texas law passed earlier this year requiring teachers to present multiple perspectives on topics that are “widely debated and currently controversial.”
“Make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives,” Peddy continued.
When teachers asked how there could be opposing viewpoints on the Holocaust, Peddy responded, “Believe me, that’s come up.”
Clay Robison, a spokesperson for Texas State Teachers Association, condemned Peddy’s interpretation of the statute.
“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.”
Upon release of the audio, a spokesperson for the district said in a statement:
Our district recognizes that all Texas teachers are in a precarious position with the latest legal requirements… Our purpose is to support our teachers in ensuring they have all of the professional development, resources and materials needed. Our district has not and will not mandate books be removed nor will we mandate that classroom libraries be unavailable.
In light of Peddy’s remarks, some Republicans tried to defend the statue, with one claiming that Carroll Independent Schools “just got it wrong.”
“School administrators should know the difference between factual historical events and fiction,” Texas Sen. Kelly Hancock (R) said. “No legislation is suggesting the action this administrator is promoting.”
However, many educators have opposed the Texas law since its first introduction in the state legislature, noting that it was too vague and that it would make it difficult for teachers to have conversations on important topics in classrooms.
The law also bans the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools. Critical race theory is most commonly taught at university level, and isn’t being taught in K-12 schools anywhere in the state — but conservatives have deliberately turned it into a new boogeyman for parents across the U.S. to unduly fear.
Beyond that, the law requires teachers to “give deference to both sides” on historical topics — a mandate that many say legitimizes false historical narratives, and limits critical discussion about topics like racism and white supremacy in schools.
“If we’re not allowing teachers the opportunity to have these honest and intellectually appropriate conversations with their feelings about the past, then we’re basically silencing those communities,” third-grade teacher Lakeisha Patterson said in the run-up to the law’s passage, adding that the bill would effectively be “whitewashing history.”