The Cobb County School board voted tonight to fire Katie Rinderle, a fifth-grade teacher at Due West Elementary, after she read “My Shadow is Purple,” a book about gender norms, to her class. Rinderle was removed from her classroom in March after three parents complained, and Superintendent Ragsdale subsequently recommended her firing.
At the time, Ragsdale alleged that the book violated Georgia’s Divisive Concept law which was signed into law in July 2022 and essentially banned teachers from discussing nine topics related to race in the classroom. Critics of the law claim it is vague and possibly violates the U.S. Constitution. Rinderle contends she bought the book at the Due West Scholastic Book Fair in February. In reporting by Southern Poverty Law, Rinderle claims to only have read it after students voted on the book.
“There is no legitimate explanation for this termination,” said Attorney Craig Goodmark. “To fire a teacher under a law that no two people could agree on is wrong. Ms. Rinderle, like other Georgia educators, does not know where the lines are drawn when it comes to sensitive, controversial, or divisive concepts. After two days of trial, we still do not know.”
The 4-3 vote was split down party lines. The four Republicans- David Banks, David Chastain, Randy Scamihorn, and Brad Wheeler- voted to fire Rinderle’s employment with the district. In contrast, the three Democrats- Nichelle Davis, Leroy “Tre” Hutchins, and Becky Sayler voted for Rinderle to keep her job.
While declining comment, Rinderle did make a statement through Southern Poverty Law and the Goodmark Law Firm- the groups that helped represent her that read. “I am disappointed in the district’s decision to terminate me for reading an inclusive and affirming book-one that is representative of diverse student identities. The district is sending a harmful message that not all students are worthy of affirmation in being their unapologetic and authentic selves.”
During the public comment, supporters of Rinderle wore purple shirts and spoke about the importance of supporting students.
“As much as this district tries to talk about awards and recognitions, people don’t remember any of those things. no one writes textbooks about AAA credit ratings, buildings aren’t named for people who reduce mileage rates, statues aren’t erected for being the second-best Superintendent in Cobb history.” said parent Michael Garza. “History is going to remember this time when the civil rights of students were under attack a small minority and what side you were on in that fight to protect them. I have comfortable with how I will be viewed by future generations. are all of you thank you?”
While others spoke about family values and applauded the Superintendent’s decision to fire Rinderle.
“I hope you will support that I am very concerned about the prospect of radical, unrealistic ideas being introduced to young children without parental consent. I don’t believe it’s appropriate for impressionable young children to be exposed to ideas like transgenderism or stories about children that reject God’s design for their gender.” said speaker Nathaniel Darnell.
The vote comes after a tribunal of retired educators on Monday did not uphold the district’s decision to fire Rinderle in March. The tribunal cited not enough evidence to support that Rinderle was insubordinate.
“We are disappointed in this decision, but not surprised,” said Mike Tafelski, senior supervising attorney for children’s rights at the SPLC. We knew this was a predetermined outcome dictated by Chris Ragsdale and the Cobb County Board of Education majority. They continue prioritizing discrimination, bigotry, and retaliation in Cobb County Schools. And we will continue to hold them accountable for their unlawful conduct. This is not the end of this case. This is the beginning.”
In a statement from the district following the board meeting, they commented, “The District is pleased that this difficult issue has concluded; we are very serious about keeping our classrooms focused on teaching, learning, and opportunities for success for students. The Board’s decision is reflective of that mission.”
Rinderle and her attorneys are expected to appeal this decision with the State Board of Education.