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Georgia board upholds firing of teacher who read gender-identity book to students

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (pictured in 2018) signed education laws in 2022 that put new restrictions on what teachers can teach students on race and gender. Those laws led to the firing of Katie Rinderle, which the Georgia Board of Education upheld Thursday. File Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (pictured in 2018) signed education laws in 2022 that put new restrictions on what teachers can teach students on race and gender. Those laws led to the firing of Katie Rinderle, which the Georgia Board of Education upheld Thursday. File Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The Georgia Board of Education Thursday upheld the firing of fifth-grade teacher Katie Rinderle for reading a book to her students about gender identity.

It's the first known case of a teacher being fired for teaching a concept banned under state law.

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My Shadow Is Purple is about gender identity and was read to her fifth-grade class. The book tells a story of "being true to yourself" and features a 6-year-old child.

Rinderle's attorney said she bought the book at a Cobb County School Board approved book fair.

The state board upheld Rinderle's firing unanimously without discussing the issue.

In a statement sent to Axios, a Cobb County School District spokesperson said, "We are grateful that the State Board of Education took the opportunity to review the situation in detail and, having studied all the available material, confirmed our district's actions."

Rinderle was fired for allegedly violating a Georgia law outlawing the teaching of so-called "divisive concepts" regarding gender and race.

In February, Rinderle, fellow educator Tonya Grimmke and the Georgia Association of Educators filed a federal lawsuit against the laws that restrict what can be taught.

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"Plaintiffs support the education of all students regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, including their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer ("LGBTQ") students. Yet Plaintiffs have been terminated or fear discipline under CCSD's vague censorship policies for actively and openly supporting their LGBTQ students," their lawsuit said.

The suit said "vague censorship policies that include undefined terms such as 'controversial,' 'divisive,' and 'sensitive.' These opaque policies were used to terminate Rinderle, and pose a continuing threat to other teachers in the school district, including Grimmke and GAE members, and harm Cobb County students' ability to learn in safe and inclusive classrooms."

Rinderle was fired nearly a year ago after parent complaints about the book.

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