School administrators in Texas have apologised for telling teachers that they needed to teach “opposing perspectives” about the Holocaust due to new laws aimed at curbing “critical race theory” in the classroom.
Gina Peddy, curriculum director for the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, had reportedly warned teachers at a training meeting last Friday that they must balance books about the Nazi genocide with other books taking the opposite view.
But in a Facebook post on on Thursday, district superintendent Lane Ledbetter apologised to families and teachers affirming that “there are not two sides of the Holocaust”.
Mr Ledbetter said: “As the superintendent of schools, I express my sincere apology regarding the online article and news story released today.
“During the conversations with teachers during last week’s meeting, the comments made were in no way to convey that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history. Additionally, we recognise there are not two sides of the Holocaust.
“As we continue to work through implementation of [Texas House Bill] 3979, we also understand this bill does not require an opposing viewpoint on historical facts. As a district we will work to add clarity to our expectations for teachers and once again apologise for any hurt or confusion this has caused.”
House Bill 3979 is a Texas state law that dictates how teachers in the state talk to their students about current affairs and the country’s history of racism. It is largely seen as an attempt to ban discourse around critical race theory, an academic term to describe how race and racism have impacted social structures in the US.
Many GOP leaders have over the past year decried the teaching of critical race theory. The bill, signed into law by governor Greg Abbott in June this year, requires teachers discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” topics to provide “diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective”.
In an audio recording reported by NBC News, Ms Peddy attempted to explain the requirements by saying: “Make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”
One teacher asked: “How do you oppose the Holocaust?” Ms Peddy responded: "Believe me, that’s come up."
The Holocaust was the systematic and state-sponsored genocide of Jews by the Nazi regime and its allies. According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and estimates by various scholars, nearly six million Jews were killed in Europe at this time.
Following the comments from Ms Peddy, Democratic senator José Menéndez sent a letter to Texas’s education commissioner seeking “immediate action” to “refute hateful and racist rhetoric in” Texas public schools and a “thorough review” of how they are implementing House Bill 3979.
“This is disturbing and a flagrant violation of keeping an open and healthy learning environment in our schools,” he wrote. “When this bill passed legislators warned that racist attacks would occur. It is our job to take every step possible to ensure an open and diverse forum, without subjecting our children to racism and [hateful] rhetoric.”
“There’s a reason white supremacy attacks history,” wrote Ms Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter. “Opposition to teaching bigotry’s history and where it leads – from the slave trade to the Holocaust – is about erasing society’s tools to recognise prejudice and prevent atrocity. Holocaust denial has no place in our society. None.”
Calling the situation “a little out of hand”, Mr Murphy tweeted: “So let me get this straight – the non-existent threat of ‘critical race theory’ has caused Texas to mandate the teaching of Holocaust denial? This seems to be getting A LITTLE out of hand.”
Author Neil Gaiman also expressed his outrage and said: “So if Texas teaches books that oppose the Holocaust… they also need Mein Kampf on their school bookshelves? Or just books that say the Jews deserved it?”