A Jewish community member in Southlake, Texas, shared an emotional account of the antisemitic bullying he endured while in high school and cautioned the Carroll Independent School District about its choice of words about the Holocaust during a heated school board meeting Monday.
Jake Berman was among more than 50 community residents and former students who criticized the school district after its top administrator, Gina Peddy, last week advised teachers in a meeting to provide students with books that covered "opposing" perspectives of the Holocaust. Peddy was citing a Texas law that requires teachers to provide students with multiple perspectives when discussing controversial topics.
At the school board meeting, teachers were seen getting emotional as the community members shared their discontent with the school and community's marred national reputation, according to NBC News.
Berman told board members that the high school bullying he experienced in the 1990s nearly pushed him to the brink of suicide. He said Peddy's comment exposed the Texas law that complicates the waters for teachers to talk accurately about racism and controversial subjects.
“I received everything from jokes about my nose to gas chambers, all while studying for my bar mitzvah,” Berman said. “The facts are that there are not two sides of the Holocaust. The Nazis systematically killed millions of people. There are not two sides of slavery. White Europeans enslaved Black Africans in this country until June 19, 1865, a moment we’re barely 150 years removed from.”
Carroll’s superintendent, Lane Ledbetter, issued an apology last week on behalf of Peddy and acknowledged that there "are not two sides of the Holocaust." Southlake Mayor John Huffman spoke out Saturday, issuing a statement that read: "There simply aren’t opposing viewpoints on the issue of condemning that monstrous evil, and I don’t know anyone who thinks there are."
But Monday's board meeting served as a platform for community members to express their hurt from the comments. One of the 50 people could be overheard saying: "There are not two sides to genocide."
“I’m Jewish,” Cara Serber, a mother of two students, told CBS Dallas. "My children are Jewish. So my instant reaction was to be upset." But Serber empathized with Peddy, while others at the meeting called for her firing.
"She was the mouthpiece of the administration and she got caught off guard and it wasn’t fair to her," Serber said.
Peddy, the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Carroll Independent School District, made her initial comments last week when advising teachers after a fourth grade teacher had been reprimanded for keeping an anti-racism book in her classroom. Peddy made the comment about "opposing" views to teachers in a training seminar discussing which books are appropriate. A recording of her comments was shared in a report with NBC News.
"Just try to remember the concepts of (House Bill) 3979,” Peddy is heard saying in the recording. That Texas law requires teachers to provide students with multiple perspectives when discussing controversial topics.
Peddy then said: "Make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives."
House Bill 3979, which went into effect last month, mandates that if public school teachers choose to discuss current events or controversial public policy or social issues, they must present numerous points of view "without giving deference to any one perspective."
"How do you oppose the Holocaust?" a teacher is heard asking on the recording.
"Believe me," Peddy replied. "That’s come up."
"The administrator is not a Holocaust denier,” resident Katy Pratt said in defense of Peddy. "She made a mistake under duress. The focus should be on the law, not the administrator.”
Clay Robison, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, said last week in a statement that the school's interpretation of the Texas law is an "overreaction" and a "misinterpretation."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jewish residents blast Texas school for Holocaust 'two sides' remark