South Lake, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/CNN) – Some members of the North Texas community and Jewish groups spoke out against the controversial new state law afterwards Director’s comments about books on the Holocaust.
The school leader told teachers that if they have books on the Holocaust in their classroom libraries, they should also include books that display “opposing” views.
“It’s almost like a joke, what is the opposing view of the Holocaust?” A teacher at Carroll Independent School in South Lake, where the suspension was made, told CNN. The teacher did not want to reveal his identity for fear of retribution.
Lyn Leadbeater, Carol’s supervisor at ISD, issued an apology Thursday after a recording of the training session in which the suspension was made was leaked. The audio, which was first reported by NBC News, was secretly recorded by a staff member.
On it, Gina Bede, executive director of Curriculum and Education for the district, can be heard using the Holocaust as an example of a historical event that required the presentation of opposing viewpoints. At the time, she was advising primary school teachers on how to follow the new district guidelines for checking books after teachers expressed frustration and confusion about the new law affecting the curriculum.
Guidelines were issued to try to comply with Texas Law HB 3979, which seeks to restrict discussion of race and history in schools.
The law, one of several legislative efforts to ban critical race theory in American classrooms, was signed by Governor Greg Abbott and took effect on September 1. The law states that a teacher may not be compelled to discuss “a specific current event or a large-scale discussion and a currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.” If a teacher engages in such a discussion, the teacher should “explore such issues from diverse and conflicting perspectives without giving any consideration to any one perspective.”
Critics argue that the law not only confuses teachers, but affects teachers’ ability to responsibly educate American children about historical events.
“It was a systematic, anti-Semitic murder of six million Jews and there is no legitimate ‘opposing’ perspective to it,” said Joel Schweitzer, regional director of the American Jewish Committee, Dallas.
“When I listened to the audio, what I heard was a manager desperately trying to figure out how to operate in this environment without clear guidance on what could be considered a controversial topic,” he added. “This law will have a frightening effect on schools, administrators and teachers and that’s what we’re seeing here.”
There are no two sides to the Holocaust
An ISD teacher at Carroll who spoke to CNN said fear, ignorance and racism are the driving forces behind the push to control how certain historical events are taught in the classroom.
“We are not asked to have opposing opinions on colonization, nor are we required to have opposing opinions on Christopher Columbus Day or Thanksgiving,” said the teacher. “We’re only told to have opposing opinions on certain things and that’s where the problem really lies.”
When asked what things teachers are asked to have opposing opinions on, the teacher replied: “The civil rights movement, the Holocaust, the Civil War, slavery, women’s rights.”
The teacher added that the controversy put even teachers’ lives at risk.
“Teachers receive active threats if they speak up at this point, to destroy their lives, to come for their license, and to go after their families,” the teacher said. “We’re starting to feel like divorce children, as if we have these two sides fighting and becoming collateral damage.”
Clay Robison, a spokesperson for the Texas Teachers Association, said he was angry but not surprised about the comments made at Carol’s ISD training session.
He noted that while the law does not specifically deal with books in teachers’ classrooms or specifically require a teacher to give equal weight to views that deny the Holocaust, he said the law is vague enough to “encourage this kind of reaction.” .
Some parents are also concerned about how HB3979 will affect the education of their children and their communities.
“It’s very sad, the situation we’re in right now,” Russell Md., a Southlake resident and father of three who attended schools in the city, told Lavandera.
“The world is changing. The city is changing. And unfortunately you have a group of people in this city who are afraid of change. And what does the fearful do? Instill fear.”
Maryland, a former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman, has spent the past three years working with other parents to develop a diverse curriculum for city schools.
“It’s happening, it’s happening here in our community as a warning to everyone out there,” Maryland said. “If you don’t stand up now, this ignorance is coming to a town near you.”
As for “opposing” views of the Holocaust, Anti-Defamation League Vice President Oren Segal told CNN New Day that they are clear anti-Semitism.
“Perhaps the idea that opposing views about the Holocaust seem fairly legitimate to anyone is a sign of that time,” Segal said. It’s anti-Semitism, it’s Holocaust denial, and it’s the thing that motivates the extremists. There are no two sides to this issue, and there are no two sides to the Holocaust.”
(© 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc., all rights reserved. CNN Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner subsidiary contributed to this report.)