Fired teacher Katie Rinderle appealing Cobb County School District’s decision

a stack of burning books

By Rebecca Gaunt

Katie Rinderle, the Due West Elementary School teacher whose firing ignited a firestorm over books in Cobb County schools is appealing her August termination.

Last March, Rinderle read the gender-themed picture book “My Shadow is Purple” by Scott Stuart, which she purchased at her school’s Scholastic book fair. After parents complained, she was pulled from her classroom while the district conducted an investigation. A district appointed tribunal found that she had violated district policy, but disagreed with the assertion that she was “uncoachable,” recommending reinstatement.

In a 4-3 vote along party lines, the Republican school board members went against that finding and followed Superintendent Chris Ragsdale’s recommendation to terminate her.

Since her firing, the teachers and media specialists that volunteer to run the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl announced they were pulling out of Cobb’s competition because they feared for their jobs if the books received complaints. Some schools also reportedly put their planned book fairs on hold until given more information by the district.

Jeff Hubbard, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, said he has tried to get the district to offer assurances to the staff that their jobs are safe, but it has yet to do so, despite its attempts to push ahead with the reading bowl.

Multiple media outlets have asked the district for comment on whether it will offer protection to participating staff members, but district spokesperson Nan Kiel has evaded answering that question, saying only that Cobb students are still eligible and that parents and teachers who are interested can volunteer.

Adding fuel to the fire, the books “Flamer” by Mike Curato and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews, were removed from school libraries by John Floresta, chief of strategy and accountability, within two days of receiving a complaint from the New York-based extremist social media account Libs of Tik Tok, in violation of the district’s policy for media and book complaints.

From the Southern Poverty Law Center’s press release:

Today, Georgia educator Katherine Rinderle appealed the Cobb County School Board’s decision last month to terminate her for reading My Shadow is Purple to her fifth grade gifted students at Due West Elementary School. Attorneys for the Goodmark Law Firm and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed the appeal on Rinderle’s behalf. 

“The board’s decision to fire me undermines students’ freedom to learn,” Rinderle said. “I am appealing this decision because I oppose censorship, discrimination and harm to students in any form. I’m committed to creating inclusive, diverse and empowering environments that center students in their learning journey.”

“Teachers should not be fired for doing their jobs,” said attorney Craig Goodmark of the Goodmark Law Firm. “The board’s decision was purely political. We appealed the board’s termination in light of the facts of the case and the decision of a hand-picked tribunal that believed Ms. Rinderle should not be fired.”

“The board’s decision to fire Ms. Rinderle defies logic and the law,” said Mike Tafelski, senior supervising attorney for the SPLC. “The superintendent and board majority continue to shamelessly enforce unlawful and discriminatory policies that harm educators and students. We will continue to hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law.” 

According to the SPLC, the appeal goes to the superintendent who must submit it to Georgia’s State Board of Education. The state board will review the record and render a decision

For more coverage of Rinderle and the debate over books in CCSD click here.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.