A Texas school principal on Thursday apologized to his district after one of his top officials advised teachers that, if they have a book about the Holocaust in their classroom, they allow students to access a book from an “opposite” perspective.
Lane Ledbetter, the superintendent of the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, told families in a statement that the officer’s comments “in no way made clear that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history.”
Mr Ledbetter added: “We recognize that there are no two sides to the Holocaust.”
The comments were made by Gina Peddy, the executive director of curriculum and instruction in the school district, which serves more than 8,400 students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She made the comments last week at a meeting about what books teachers might have in classroom libraries, according to NBC News, which obtained a recording of the conversation.
According to the news outlet, Ms. Peddy spoke at the meeting about a new law in Texas, House Bill 3979, that addresses how public schools deal with topics such as critical race theory. The measure says that teachers who choose to discuss current events or “controversial issues of public policy or social affairs” must also examine the issues “from different and conflicting perspectives without respecting one perspective.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill in June, making it one of many efforts by Republican lawmakers to ban or restrict curricula that emphasize systemic racism.
“We’re in the middle of a political mess,” a voice identified as Ms. Peddy’s in the recording says.
She later says, “If you have a book about the Holocaust, make sure you have one that has its opposite, that has different perspectives.”
Her comments provoked an audible response from other people in the room, including one person who asked, “How do you resist the Holocaust?”
Ms Peddy did not immediately respond to comment Friday. It was not immediately clear whether she would be disciplined for the comments.
In the apology, Mr Ledbetter said, “As we continue to work on the implementation of HB3979, we also understand that this bill does not require opposing views on historical facts.”
Mr Ledbetter also said the district would work to clarify its expectations for teachers.
The comments drew immediate criticism from a range of state officials and organizations, including two lawmakers who supported the new law, following the NBC News report.
State senator Kelly Hancock, a Republican, said in a statement that “school administrators need to know the difference between factual historical events and fiction.” He added: “No legislation suggests the action this administrator is promoting.”
State Representative Giovanni Capriglione, also a Republican and a sponsor of the bill, said: “The Holocaust was a terrible event in human history, based on unwitting hatred. It’s not a controversial or even debatable topic at the moment – its occurrence is a fact.”
He said the new Texas law “doesn’t require ‘opposing views’ and any idea that would be wrong.”
Texas Democrats condemned the comments and criticized the new law more broadly, with Hannah Roe Beck, the co-executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, calling the comments “disturbing.” She added in a statement: “There is no place for laws that deny children the right to learn how racism affects their world and their reality – especially in a state like ours with a growing diverse population.”
The Anti-Defamation League also condemned the comments. Cheryl Drazin, the vice president of the group’s central division, said the regional office was “appalled at this trivialization of the Holocaust” and that “there are no comparable books to ‘balance’ this stance.”