At an emotionally charged school board meeting Monday night in Southlake, Texas, a Jewish former student gave painful testimony about antisemitic bullying that he said he endured in the Carroll Independent School District. Teachers were openly struggling to control their voices as they described feeling “unsupported and under attack”.
Meanwhile, many parents defended a district administrator who told teachers to offer students books showing “opposing” perspectives on the Holocaust, saying she was trying to follow a problematic new state law, while also condemning her interpretation of that law.
The administrator, Gina Peddy, the school district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, was secretly recorded by a Carroll staff member during a training session this month. The recording, first shared with NBC News, sparked international outrage and put a spotlight on a new Texas law that requires teachers to present multiple perspectives when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” issues.
Peddy’s comment came during a teacher training session two weeks ago that was focused on which books teachers can keep in their classroom libraries. The district, to comply with the new Texas law, known as Senate Bill 3, had sent teachers a rubric asking them to grade books based on whether they provide multiple perspectives and to set aside any that present singular, dominant narratives “in such a way that it … may be considered offensive.”
The mayor of Southlake has issued a statement in response to our reporting, seeming to blame @ahylton26 and me for the acrimony in his town. Our reporting has been based on extensive interviews with his constituents — students, parents, teachers — and hours of public comments. pic.twitter.com/0M9BTJutYY
— Mike Hixenbaugh (@Mike_Hixenbaugh) October 16, 2021
Monday’s school board meeting was the first time Southlake residents had a public forum to raise concerns about Peddy’s comment. More than 50 speakers addressed the board, many demanding that the district take steps to repair its reputation.
NEW: A school administrator in Southlake, Texas, advised teachers last week that if they have a book about the Holocaust in their classroom, they should also have a book with an "opposing" perspective.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 14, 2021
In response to NBC News’ coverage of Peddy’s remark, Carroll’s superintendent, Lane Ledbetter, issued an apology last week, acknowledging that there “are not two sides of the Holocaust” and pledging to work with his staff to clarify the district’s policy.
Jake Berman, a Jewish former student, told board members that the bullying he endured in the district two decades ago was so severe that he contemplated suicide. His parents eventually pulled him out of the school system. A Jewish parent, Rob Forst, described himself as a descendant of Holocaust survivors and said his family members are questioning whether they want to stay in Southlake. He called on Ledbetter to issue a stronger condemnation of Peddy’s comment, calling the remarks “completely unacceptable.”
There is no "opposing perspective" on the Holocaust.
Gina Peddy with Carroll ISD advises teachers of a new law stating that books on the Holocaust must be countered with available books with opposing perspectives.
What perspective might that be, Gina?
— CajunBlueAZ™ 🌵 (@CajunBlueAZ1) October 14, 2021
Several teachers told the board that its vote to discipline one of their colleagues and the district’s guidance about the books they can keep in classrooms has shaken their confidence in the school system. Others blamed the media attention for causing division in the community.
— Elizabeth Felker (@definelulu) October 15, 2021
Gina Peddy has not made any public statements as of Tuesday, nor had she replied to NBC’s messages requesting comment. Watch some of the emotional speeches from Monday’s school board meeting, below.