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Texas superintendent apologizes after official told teachers to offer books with ‘opposing’ views on Holocaust

A Texas school superintendent apologized to his district Thursday after one of his top officials advised teachers that, if they have a book about the Holocaust in their classroom, they should give students access to a book from an “opposing” perspective.

Lane Ledbetter, superintendent of the Carroll Independent School District, in Southlake, Texas, told families in a statement that the official’s comments were “in no way to convey that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history.”

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Ledbetter added, “We recognize there are not two sides of the Holocaust.”

The remarks were made by Gina Peddy, 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 during a meeting last week about which books teachers could have in classroom libraries, according to NBC News, which obtained a recording of the conversation.

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In the meeting, according to the news outlet, Peddy talked about a new Texas law, House Bill 3979, which relates to how public schools handle subjects 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” should also explore the issues “from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in June, making it one of several efforts by Republican lawmakers to ban or limit curricula that emphasize systemic racism.

“We are in the middle of a political mess,” a voice identified as Peddy’s can be heard saying in the recording.

She later says: “Make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”

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Her remarks drew an audible reaction from other people in the room, including one person who asked, “How do you oppose the Holocaust?”

Peddy did not immediately respond for comment Friday. It was not immediately clear whether she would be disciplined for the comments.

In the apology, Ledbetter said, “As we continue to work through implementation of HB 3979, we also understand this bill does not require an opposing viewpoint on historical facts.”

Ledbetter also said that the district would work to clarify its expectations for teachers.

The remarks immediately drew criticism from a range of state officials and organizations after the NBC News report, including from two lawmakers who supported the new law.

State Sen. Kelly Hancock, a Republican, said in a statement that “school administrators should know the difference between factual historical events and fiction.” He added: “No legislation is suggesting the action this administrator is promoting.”

State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, also a Republican and a sponsor of the bill, said: “The Holocaust was a terrible event in human history based on ignorant hatred. It is not a currently controversial or even debatable subject — its occurrence is a fact.”

He said the new Texas law “does not require an ‘opposing view,’ and any idea that it would is incorrect.”

Texas Democrats condemned the remarks and criticized the new law more broadly, with Hannah Roe Beck, co-executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, calling the comments “disturbing.” She added in a statement: “There’s no place for laws that deny kids the right to learn about how racism impacts their world and their reality — especially in a state like ours with a growing diverse population.”

The Anti-Defamation League also condemned the remarks. Cheryl Drazin, the group’s central division vice president, said that the regional office was “horrified by this trivialization of the Holocaust” and that “there are no comparable books to ‘balance’ out this viewpoint.”

c.2021 The New York Times Company

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