The Left Rallied Around This Georgia Teacher Who Was Fired 'for Reading a Book,' but There's More to the Story

YouTube / Southern Poverty Law Center

In 2022, the Georgia General Assembly passed a series of laws that were designed to give parents more of a say in their children’s public education. The “divisive concepts law” bars educators from teaching that one race is superior to another or that the United States and the state of Georgia are racist, while the “parents’ bill of rights” sets out to “provide for the protection of the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their minor children from undue infringement by a state or local government entity, local board of education, or any officer, employee, or agent thereof.”

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That second law faced one of its first big tests at the end of this school year when Katie Rinderle, a teacher of gifted students at Due West Elementary School in Cobb County, just northwest of Atlanta, read a book called “My Shadow Is Purple” to her fifth-grade students.

The book’s cover featured a boy wearing a button-up shirt and pants rolled up high in the hipster fashion, but his shadow is wearing a frilly dress and a bow.

“My Shadow Is Purple” by Scott Stuart

Rinderle described to the Southern Poverty Law Center (so yeah, it’s a totally unbiased account) how she bought the book at the school’s Scholastic Book Fair and how the students supposedly responded to the book about “acceptance of oneself and others and embracing diverse and complex identities and experiences.”

The students reflected upon how they, as academic achievers, are often perceived as different from their peers. They discussed the importance of recognizing and accepting people as individuals. And they expressed how supported the main character must have felt when they found friends that accepted them and valued them for their differences and uniqueness.

Rinderle then asked her students to self-reflect and write a “shadow” poem.

Their reflections were personal, profound, neither divisive nor aimed at others. “My shadow is white, an underestimated thing,” one student wrote. “When mixed with colors, it can do amazing things but left by itself it’s kinda bland.” Another wrote, “My shadow is purple and now I do know that everyone’s different and not to be woe [sic] when my heart glows and tells me to see it’s fine to be me.”

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When the school found out about Rinderle’s use of the book in her class, administrators put her on leave. Later, the district told her that she could resign or the school could terminate her contract. She refused to resign, so the district fired her. Naturally, Rinderle has become a cause célèbre to the left.

Rinderle has hired a crusading attorney to represent her at a hearing in August, and, of course, a local teachers’ union backs her. “The Cobb County Association of Educators supports Rinderle’s fight to retain her position,” reports WSB-TV in a story with a headline that makes the school sound unreasonable: “Cobb County teacher fighting to save her job after reading book to students.”

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But as we’ve come to expect about situations like these, there’s more to the story than meets the eye. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (yep, that AJC) did some legitimate investigative reporting and discovered that parents and students weren’t happy with Rinderle’s decision to read “My Shadow Is Purple.”

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The AJC filed an open records request, and Cassidy Alexander reports that “students felt uncomfortable when sitting through the story, which is about a child whose shadow isn’t blue or pink. Rinderle had students use ‘they/them’ pronouns when referring to the main character of the book, school district investigators found.”

Alexander also reports that “investigators determined that Rinderle read the book to students during a time when she was required to be teaching math,” even though Rinderle denies that she taught radical gender theory instead of math to her fifth-graders. She also denies that she was teaching the book’s obvious lesson, asserting that “This was about embracing each other, students reflected on valuing the differences, letting them be unique and having multiple interests. That was the basis of it.” Sure, Katie.

Livid parents complained to the school, calling the lesson “unacceptable.” One parent wrote, “After much consideration and back-and-forth with other concerned parents, (redacted) and I decided that we will not idly sit by as this garbage agenda is being pushed on our child. We are utterly disgusted that this content was taught to fifth-grade students at Due West Elementary.”

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On top of the controversy surrounding “My Shadow Is Purple”, this wasn’t the teacher’s first time reading a provocative book to her students. Despite claiming that she had a stellar record with no complaints before foisting “My Shadow Is Purple” on her unsuspecting students, Rinderle has a 437-page personnel file, and the AJC discovered that parents voiced their concerns about her last year.

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“In 2022, parents complained after Rinderle read students a book written by then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams,” Alexander writes. “Rinderle allegedly posted about the book on Instagram and tagged Abrams, which the parents felt was ‘politically divisive.’”

At the time, parents complained, and the principal told her to steer clear of reading materials that were “political or controversial,” pointing out that Abrams as an author was too political for class. Rinderle didn’t face discipline for the Abrams book, but “My Shadow Is Purple” was the last straw, especially since she repeatedly insisted that she did nothing wrong in building lesson plans around the book.

“Your unwillingness to acknowledge that your conduct was inappropriate and/or the actual topic of this book has further exacerbated the situation, causing the district to lose confidence in your ability to exercise appropriate judgement [sic] as a teacher,” read a letter from Superintendent Chris Ragsdale.

Rinderle’s hearing is scheduled for early August. Stay tuned, and if there’s anything interesting that comes out of it, we’ll bring it to you. In the meantime, good for Due West Elementary and Cobb County Schools for standing up for parents against this sort of ideology that’s cropping up in our schools. As someone who grew up taking gifted classes, I know firsthand how the “smart kids” can sometimes be more open to new and challenging ideas, which makes Rinderle’s use of these left-wing books especially insidious.

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