SOUTHLAKE, Texas — Parents and community members spoke out Monday night at a Carroll ISD board meeting following multiple controversies in the district, including one in which NBC News reported a school administrator asked teachers to offer books with an "opposing perspective" about the Holocaust.
Southlake residents, parents and teachers addressed the board during the meeting, voicing their concerns with the district leaders, with many calling on the district to better support teachers and to own up to mistakes.
The public comment portion of the meeting took nearly two hours to get through, with each person allowed to speak for two minutes.
One mom said the district is becoming more divisive and "less about what is best for the children in the ISD."
"Your lack of transparency demonstrates how compromised you appear to be in the duties you swore to uphold," she accused. "The blame of the Carroll ISD situation is on you, the board. Not any administrator."
That administrator, Gina Peddy, received intense criticism after she reportedly told teachers to offer books with the "opposing" viewpoint of the Holocaust. Some who attended the meeting, however, spoke in support Peddy, the executive director of curriculum for the district.
"I feel there must be more to the story or some sort of misunderstanding," said one woman who said she knew Peddy.
During the meeting, community members and teachers said that Carroll ISD educators didn't feel supported by the district after the last few weeks. They wanted more trust in teachers to make their own decisions in their classrooms.
"At the board meeting on Oct. 4 and since, some members of our school board and community have made teachers and other district employees feel the opposite of safe and loved," one teacher said. "We're simply asking to be trusted, to be loved and be kept safe so we can continue to do what we love most: teaching your precious children."
Earlier this month, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that a teacher was facing reprimand over a book she had in her library called “This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on how to wake up, take action and do the work.”
The Star-Telegram reported that an elementary student brought the book home, and her mom felt it was inappropriate for her daughter’s age and grade level. The mom discussed her concerns with the school principal and "described how her daughter was taken out of class, reprimanded and told that she could not take a book home without the teacher’s permission," the Star-Telegram reported.
"You voted to reprimand a beloved and respected teacher, because of your actions and personal agendas along with an inaccurate interpretation of the law [HB 3979], which led to a chaotic narrative between administrators and teachers," one mom said.
School board president Michelle Moore pushed back, though, and said during Monday's meeting that the district stands behind teachers and staff.
The unfolding fallout after the book situation and Holocaust comment comes as the district tries to adapt to new state legislative requirements that have been subject to a lot of confusion.
Texas' so-called "critical race theory" bill (HB 3979), passed this year, restricts how current events and America's history of racism can be taught.
According to the bill, teachers can't be compelled to discuss current events and must explore various viewpoints without giving deference to either side.
Superintendent Lane Ledbetter apologized for the situation in a statement last week, writing, "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."
Southlake Mayor John Huffman also said in a Facebook post that Southlake will "always stand with our Jewish neighbors and friends."
"I know I speak for the entire Southlake community when I say that the idea that there could be two sides to the historical fact of the Holocaust is unthinkable," he said. "There simply aren’t opposing viewpoints on the issue of condemning that monstrous evil, and I don’t know anyone who thinks there are."