A superintendent in Texas apologized to his district earlier this week after there was a massive uproar when it was revealed that a top official told teachers to “make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.” The comment, first reported by NBC News, led to lots of outrage that any school official would even suggest there was any kind of “opposing” side to the Holocaust. In a statement, Lane Ledbetter, the superintendent of the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, issued a statement saying that the comments were “in no way to convey that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history.” Ledbetter added: “We recognize there are not two sides of the Holocaust.”
It’s unclear whether the official, Gina Peddy, will face any kind of disciplinary action. Peddy, who is the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the school district, made the comment while talking to teachers about how to comply with a new Texas law, House Bill 3979, which requires multiple perspectives when teachers discuss “widely debated and currently controversial issues.” Lawmakers have said the measure was passed as a way to prevent schools from teaching “critical race theory.” The training session that Peddy was leading with the teachers came mere days after the school district’s board voted to reprimand a teacher who had an anti-racism book in her classroom.
When Peddy told teachers during the training session, which was secretly recorded, that they needed to include “other perspectives” on the Holocaust, several teachers spoke up. “How do you oppose the Holocaust?” one teacher asked. “Believe me,” Peddy replied. “That’s come up.” Educators have long opposed the measure, saying it was vague and would have a chilling effect on discussions in the classroom. Proponents of the law, however, said that talk of “opposing” view of the Holocaust was not a proper interpretation of the measure. “School administrators should know the difference between factual historical events and fiction,” State Sen. Kelly Hancock wrote. “No legislation is suggesting the action this administrator is promoting.”
Opponents of the law seized on the issue, saying it illustrated how these types of measures can have broad consequences. “We’re seeing books banned, educators reprimanded for teaching authentic history, and kids deprived of their right to learn about the world they’re growing up in,” Texas Democratic Party Co-Executive Director Hannah Roe Beck said in a statement. “Texas Republicans are censoring education to pander to rightwing extremists—and putting Texas families and kids in danger while they do.”
The Anti-Defamation League, which had harshly condemned the remarks, said the apology wasn’t enough to ease concerns about the effect of the new law. “While it is good to see the superintendent issue this clarification and make clear there is no opposing view to the Holocaust—we are still troubled that the implementation of HB3979 led to these dangerous instructions,” the Anti-Defamation League tweeted. “History cannot be rewritten.”
In an editorial, the Dallas Morning News writes that what happened in Southlake is “the unfortunate outcome of a new and misguided state law.” Educators had already warned the law was too vague and while it’s clear that Peddy “misunderstood the law” it illustrates the larger state of fear that many educators now have to make sure they won’t get into trouble. “There should be no moral confusion in our schools about the evils of the Holocaust, of slavery, of white supremacy. But educators are overreacting to the new state law out of fear of getting in trouble, and our lawmakers should have never put them in this predicament,” notes the paper. “They must revise the law or repeal it.”