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Education Government - Local News

Cobb County teacher fired over book she read to students in classroom


Reading a book to students in a classroom should not be the justification for losing one’s job, but an incident in Cobb County led to the dismissal of a teacher and many people are not happy with that.

Following a tribunal’s recommendation to retain Katie Rinderle, Republican members of the Cobb School board acted swiftly to terminate her employment. This action by the board has been described as unprecedented and will not soon be forgotten.

Even in the face of this termination, it is important to note that Rinderle retains her teaching certificate and has legal options to consider. Many are encouraging her to do just that and support her pursuing legal action against the Superintendent and the Board members in question.

The recent decision at the school board meeting has drawn comparisons to an old black and white movie, “12 Angry Men,” a 1957 American legal drama that features a storyline revolving around a jury composed of 12 angry men, all of whom are white. 

In the film, these jurors engage in intense deliberations to determine the guilt or innocence of a teenager accused of murder, with their decision resting on the principle of reasonable doubt.

Throughout the movie, the 12 jurors grapple with disagreements and conflicts that force them to reexamine their own moral values and compasses. 12 Angry Men is celebrated for its exploration of themes such as justice, human psychology, and the intricate dynamics of decision-making within a tense and morally charged context. The film remains a classic for its profound examination of these complex issues and should be viewed by all, especially the Cobb School Board members who went against the recommendation of its own tribunal.

The decision made appeared to be influenced by party lines, race, and gender. With Superintendent Chris Ragsdale supporting termination, the four older white men supported the recommendation of the Superintendent over the tribunal, while the other three board members, including two females (one White and one Black) and a Black male, voted in favor of allowing her to continue teaching. 

This suggests a divisive and contentious atmosphere within the board, which is not news to anyone who has watched it operate and make unpopular decisions.

For anyone familiar with the movie, a comparison to the early scenes of “12 Angry Men” is appropriate here as it invokes the idea of a person being perceived as guilty until proven innocent. 

It is unfortunate that the board members did not take the opportunity to step back and reflect on their own moral compasses in this situation. The ability to engage in introspection and consider the ethical implications of decisions is an important aspect of leadership, especially in matters that impact individuals’ livelihoods and well-being. It is a reminder of the need for empathy, fairness, and ethical deliberation in governance and decision-making processes.

The actions of the Board of Education have left many shocked, although some argue that no one should be surprised. These same board members have taken strong and divisive positions on various issues that have failed in garnering community-wide agreement or agreement within their own board. 

The severity of the punishment they imposed in this case, involving a teacher who read a book to her students, has raised concerns, particularly since the book was available in the school book sale.

There are significant and broader issues facing education systems across the state of Georgia including the shortage of educators and the need for qualified, dedicated teachers. Decisions that dismiss valuable educators can exacerbate this problem. In addition, when educators feel under threat or unsupported, it can impact their morale and effectiveness in the classroom, thus impacting the ability of the students to learn.

Teaching is a profession that thrives on passion, commitment, and a sense of purpose. When educators fear for their job security, it can have a detrimental effect on their ability to provide a nurturing and effective learning environment for students.

The firing of Rinderle also sheds light on how the school board perceives the role of the tribunal. Many in the community now perceive it as mere “window dressing” as they raise concerns about transparency and public input in the decision-making process. It also underscores the importance of open and fair deliberation when it comes to issues that affect educators, students, and the community as a whole.

Members of the school board and the superintendent should watch 12 Angry Men as part of their education and awareness on governance and decision-making. This film, along with other instructional materials, could serve as a valuable tool for fostering a deeper understanding of the complexities and responsibilities associated with their roles in the education system.

Recent decisions by them, such as the attempts to ban the teaching of critical race theory and the removal of words that support diversity and inclusion in the classroom, highlight the importance of addressing issues related to education and diversity with sensitivity, empathy, and a focus on promoting equitable and inclusive learning environments. 

Ensuring that education is free from biases and prejudices is vital for the well-being of students and the community as a whole. This moment should have the public demanding from the Board an open dialogue, empathy, and a commitment to the principles of fairness and inclusivity, which should be the priorities for those responsible for educational governance.

The decisions made by public officials, particularly those in positions of authority over education, can have a profound impact on the community and its values. Public opinion and community involvement play a crucial role in holding these officials accountable for their actions.

These situations have clearly sparked significant discontent and call for accountability within the community, among teachers, and among supporters of the affected teacher. The suggestion that board members who voted for her termination should face consequences, including resignations, recalls, or challenges during the next election cycle, underscores the seriousness of the issue and the desire for accountability in the eyes of many.

In the age of social media, these decisions are unlikely to be forgotten and may have repercussions during future elections or through other mechanisms of accountability. The democratic process allows for citizens to voice their concerns and preferences, and this situation serves as a reminder of the importance of civic engagement in shaping the direction of education and governance in the community by being part of the process of voting when these problematic office holders come back to you for your vote.

I highly recommend watching the movie for the angry men on the Cobb County School Board. 


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