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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a rally

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks at a rally in New York City on June 5, 2021. (Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'Holocaust Denial Has No Place in Our Society': AOC Reprimands Texas School Official

"I am offended as hell by somebody who says I should have an opposing view to the Holocaust in my library," said one teacher.

Kenny Stancil

A top school administrator from Southlake, Texas—and the state GOP's reactionary curriculum policies—came under fire after NBC News revealed Thursday that she recently told teachers that books about the Holocaust should be accompanied by books with "opposing" views.

"We find it reprehensible for an educator to require a Holocaust denier to get equal treatment with the facts of history... It's worse than absurd."

Gina Peddy, Carroll Independent School District's executive director of curriculum and instruction, made the comment last Friday during a training session on which books are allowed in classroom libraries. A teacher secretly recorded the meeting and shared the audio with NBC News

"Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979," Peddy said, alluding to a new Texas law that requires teachers to offer multiple perspectives when discussing "widely debated and currently controversial" issues. "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."

When a teacher asked how one would present a divergent view on the Holocaust, Peddy said, "Believe me, that's come up."

"Holocaust denial has no place in our society," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted in response to the viral clip, which has been heard millions of times. "None."

"There's a reason white supremacy attacks history," she added. "Opposition to teaching bigotry's history and where it leads—from the slave trade to the Holocaust—is about erasing society's tools to recognize prejudice and prevent atrocity."

Nikki McCann Ramirez, a senior researcher at Media Matters for America, placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of Texas' right-wing lawmakers, who are trying to criminalize classroom conversations about the history of racial oppression—inaccurately subsumed under the label of "critical race theory" (CRT).

"This is not an educator organically advocating for Holocaust denial in the classroom," Ramirez argued. "It's a direct response to the insane anti-CRT legislation passed by Republicans that is now requiring educators to think like this lest they be accused of lawbreaking."

According to NBC News, "The training came four days after the Carroll school board, responding to a parent's complaint, voted to reprimand a fourth grade teacher who had kept an anti-racism book in her classroom."

In response to a question about Peddy's remarks, NBC News reported, "Carroll spokesperson Karen Fitzgerald said the district is trying to help teachers comply with the new state law and an updated version that will go into effect in December, Texas Senate Bill 3." 

The news outlet added:

"Our district recognizes that all Texas teachers are in a precarious position with the latest legal requirements," Fitzgerald wrote, noting that the district's interpretation of the new Texas law requires teachers to provide balanced perspectives not just during classroom instruction, but in the books that are available to students in class during free time. "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."

However, both progressive critics and conservative defenders of Texas' new law asserted that the advice coming from the Carroll school district is out of step with what the state GOP has mandated.

As NBC News noted: 

Clay Robison, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, a union representing educators, said there's nothing in the new Texas law explicitly dealing with classroom libraries. Robison said the book guidelines at Carroll, a suburban school district near Fort Worth, are an "overreaction" and a "misinterpretation" of the law. Three other Texas education policy experts agreed.

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

State Sen. Bryan Hughes, an East Texas Republican who wrote Senate Bill 3, denied that the law requires teachers to provide opposing views on what he called matters of "good and evil" or to get rid of books that offer only one perspective on the Holocaust.

"That's not what the bill says," Hughes said in an interview Wednesday when asked about the Carroll book guidelines. "I'm glad we can have this discussion to help elucidate what the bill says, because that's not what the bill says."

Requesting anonymity due to fear of retaliation, six Carroll teachers, including four who attended last week's meeting and heard Peddy's remarks first-hand, told NBC News that mixed messages from the district—including restrictive classroom library guidelines shared one day before the training—are creating confusion and anxiety among teachers.

"Teachers are literally afraid that we're going to be punished for having books in our classes."

"Teachers are literally afraid that we're going to be punished for having books in our classes," one elementary school teacher said. "There are no children's books that show the 'opposing perspective' of the Holocaust or the 'opposing perspective' of slavery. Are we supposed to get rid of all of the books on those subjects?"

The recorder, which continued to run after the conclusion of last Friday's session, picked up additional evidence of discontent, including a comment that suggested some fed-up teachers may quit rather than adhere to right-wing demands to reconfigure bookshelves and whitewash history.

"I am offended as hell by somebody who says I should have an opposing view to the Holocaust in my library," said one teacher. 

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

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