Termination hearing for Cobb County teacher over book wraps up

The termination hearing for a Cobb County teacher who has been on leave for more than a month over a controversial book wrapped up late Friday. The hearing was to determine if the fifth-grade teacher will be fired for reading a book on gender identity. 

It has been a long two days for Due West Elementary fifth-grade teacher Katie Rinderle. She was teary-eyed when she took the stand. 

"When I saw the book, at the book fair, I read it. I thought it was a wonderful book," said Rinderle. 

Rinderle is under fire for reading the book "My Shadow is Purple." She said out of several options, her students chose to read it back in March. The book, which features a nonbinary character, centers on challenging gender norms.

Katie Rinderle (Credit: Southern Poverty Law Center)

The Cobb County School District says Rinderle chose poor judgment when she chose that book. The district says when she read it in the classroom she violated Georgia's new Divisive Concepts Law, which limits what teachers can talk about in class. 

"We are concerned she chose to put a book about gender identity in a class of 10- and 11-year-olds," said Gretchen Walton who was representing the school district. 

The district says she should have sought parental permission before reading it and should have discussed it with her principal. 

"This is not part of the curriculum, it's not part of what we teach in fifth grade," said Due West Elementary Principal Cissi Kale.

Katie Rinderle shows a copy of "My Shadow is Purple" (Credit: Southern Poverty Law Center)

During the termination hearing, Rinderle's attorney discussed her exemplary past performance reviews. Some in the room wore purple to show their support for the teacher. 

"This was about inclusivity, balance, acceptance and being true to yourself," said Rinderle. 

The tribunal has five days to make their recommendation to the school board. The board can accept or change the recommendation. The board plans to vote on it at their next meeting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.