Denton school district officials removed controversial children's book author Eric Hauser from his post as an assistant principal Monday, according to a Denton ISD press release.
"Due to the controversy surrounding the book I have published, I think it's best that I not serve as assistant principal at Rodriguez," Hauser said in the prepared statement. "The students, the community, and the teachers are too important to me to subject them to all the negativity and disapproval resulting from this book. To my colleagues, I offer my deepest apologies if this has affected them or their families in any negative way."
Hauser was named an assistant principal at Rodriguez Middle School, set to open for the first time on Wednesday. He recently came under fire after he self-published a book called "The Adventures of Pepe and Pede," which has since been picked up by Post Hill Press.
Hauser declined to comment Monday afternoon.
According to the book's description on the publisher's website, the story follows "two brave friends as they use truth and honesty to battle the deceitful forces threatening their home. In this allegorical children's tale, kids will find an exciting battle of good vs. evil and adults will find clever parallels to the conflict between truth and ignorance that faces America's leaders."
Pepe the Frog is a cartoon character that recently gained prominence as a symbol on white supremacist internet message boards and by other racist movements described as "alt-right."
Hauser previously said he didn't know Pepe was tied to white supremacists and does not align himself with the alt-right movement. He told The Dallas Morning News he wrote the book to fill a conservative void in children's literature with themes focused on honesty, teamwork and patriotism.
Critics said Hauser's book was anti-Muslim and full of alt-right propaganda. Hauser included a dedication on the front page of the book to "fellow centipedes," a nickname for supporters of President Donald Trump made popular in a video on YouTube. An online petition to get Hauser fired cropped up over the weekend and garnered 547 signatures by Monday afternoon.
Denton ISD spokesman Mario Zavala said since news of the book broke Thursday, the district's central offices received a dozen calls regarding Hauser.
Zavala said Hauser didn't violate any district employee policies because he wrote the book on his own time and did not use district resources. Zavala also said that, to his knowledge, Hauser didn't contact anyone within the district about including the book in classroom curriculum or campus libraries.
However, the controversy surrounding the book caused such a distraction that Hauser ostensibly asked for reassignment. It is unclear what his new role will be within the district, but he won't be on any campus as an educator or administrator, according to the press release.
"We pride ourselves on providing a welcoming and nurturing environment to all students," Denton ISD Superintendent Jamie Wilson said in a prepared statement. "Our staff is reflective of the community we serve, where all individuals are respected. We encourage our staff and students to be free-thinking and express their ideas, however, when these ideas interrupt the ability to learn, work or create divisiveness each of us is held accountable."
Post Hill Press, an independent publisher, focuses on books about pop culture, self-help, Christianity and political conservatism.
CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862.
FEATURED PHOTO: "The Adventures of Pepe and Pede" written by former Rodriguez Middle School Assistant principal Eric Hauser. The Dallas Morning News File Photo.