Texas school leader tells teachers to 'balance' Holocaust books with opposing views

A top administrator in Southlake, Texas, last week advised teachers that if they have a book about the Holocaust, they should have a book from an "opposing" perspective, NBC News reported, citing an audio recording.

Gina Peddy, Carroll Independent School District's executive director of curriculum and instruction, made the comment during a training session on which books were allowed in classroom libraries. A staff member secretly recorded the meeting and shared it with NBC.

"Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979," Peddy said during the meeting, referring to a new Texas law that requires educators to present multiple viewpoints for "widely debated and currently controversial" issues, NBC reported. "And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust," Peddy continued, "that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives."

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"How do you oppose the Holocaust?" one teacher asked.

"Believe me, that's come up," Peddy said.

Peddy also reassured teachers and told them not to worry.

"We are in the middle of a political mess," she said in the recording. "And you are in the middle of a political mess. And so we just have to do the best that we can."

“I do know that you feel like it’s putting you at risk,” she later said. “I do know that. But I also know that we’re going to do what’s best for our kids. And we’re going to stand behind you on this.”

After the training session ended, a group of teachers gathered in a hallway to discuss what they heard.

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“I am offended as hell by somebody who says I should have an opposing view to the Holocaust in my library,” one teacher can be heard saying in the recording obtained by NBC News.

“They don’t understand what they have done," another replied. "And they are going to lose incredible teachers, myself potentially being with them.”

The meeting came in response to a parent's complaint after a fourth grade teacher kept an anti-racism book in her classroom. As a result, the school board voted to reprimand the teacher. The training came four days later, according to NBC.

Carroll Schools spokeswoman Karen Fitzgerald said in a written response about Peddy's comments that the district is trying to help educators comply with the new Texas law as well as the updated version going into effect in December. She noted that the district's interpretation of the new law requires teachers to provide balanced perspectives in the books available to students in class during free time, not just during class time. 

"Our district recognizes that all Texas teachers are in a precarious position with the latest legal requirements," Fitzgerald wrote, according to the news outlet. "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."

She added that teachers still unsure about a book "should visit with their campus principal, campus team and curriculum coordinators about appropriate next steps."

However, some are saying that the book guidelines at Carroll are misinterpreted. Three other Texas education policy experts agreed, according to NBC.

"We find it reprehensible for an educator to require a Holocaust denier to get equal treatment with the facts of history," said Clay Robison, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association. "That's absurd. It's worse than absurd. And this law does not require it."