Atlanta, Georgia (TEH) – In a decision that has drawn national attention, a three-person tribunal has recommended against the firing of Katherine Rinderle, a Georgia teacher who faced termination for reading a book about gender identity to her fifth-grade class at Due West Elementary School. The Cobb County School District, located in the Atlanta area, had informed Rinderle of its intention to terminate her employment after she read the book “My Shadow is Purple” to her students.
The book, written by Scott Stuart, describes itself as a “heartwarming and inspiring book about being true to yourself.” Its publisher, Larrikin House, emphasizes that the story “considers gender beyond binary in a vibrant spectrum of color.”
The incident led to a parent’s complaint that the book was inappropriate, sparking a series of events that culminated in a two-day hearing last week. The tribunal, composed of three retired Cobb County educators, heard testimonies from parents, district officials, and Rinderle herself.
The district accused Rinderle of violating at least six district policies and administrative rules, including two policies based on Georgia laws passed last year. These laws restrict the instruction of “divisive concepts” and demand greater transparency regarding what children are being taught.
This case is part of a broader movement by conservative lawmakers in several states to limit how issues like sexual orientation, gender identity, and race are taught in schools. The tribunal ruled that Rinderle did not violate board policies on insubordination but did violate other policies.
Rinderle, who has been on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of her termination decision, expressed gratitude for the tribunal’s consideration but disagreed with the finding that she violated any policy. She stated that the district never explained what “divisive” means and criticized the policies as vague.
The school board will review the tribunal’s recommendation at an upcoming meeting and vote on whether to accept, reject, or modify its decision. The board’s spokesperson said, “The Board will review the Tribunal’s recommendation and looks forward to returning our entire focus on educating all of our talented students.”
Due West Elementary Principal Cissi Kale and School district assistant superintendent Gretchen Walton expressed concerns about Rinderle’s ability to be an effective teacher in the district. However, a parent, Susan Oruseibio, testified in support of Rinderle, praising the book as “a beautiful story” and emphasizing the importance of teaching diversity and inclusion.
Rinderle’s emotional testimony highlighted her dedication as a teacher who celebrates her students’ differences. “They have diverse backgrounds, experiences, cultures. They have diverse needs, so embracing a whole child is centering all of that in their learning,” she said.
The case has ignited a debate on the boundaries of education, the role of teachers in shaping young minds, and the fine line between adhering to policies and nurturing a diverse and inclusive environment. The decision of the Cobb County School Board will be closely watched, as it may set a precedent for similar cases across the nation.