A Denton ISD assistant principal is coming under fire for writing a new children's book that some say is politically-motivated.
The book is called The Adventures of Pepe and Pede but it's the symbolism behind those characters that has people talking.
Pepe the Frog started as an innocent cartoon. Some have since aligned it with Donald Trump supporters. Then, more recently, the Anti-Defamation League flagged it for some more offensive uses that the book's author told NBC5 he knew nothing about.
The latest news from around North Texas.
The Adventures of Pepe and Pede centers on a pair of frog and centipede pals who celebrate a new farmer in town by taking on a bearded alligator named Alkah.
In an interview, author Eric Hauser told NBC5 reporting partners The Dallas Morning News that it's a story about values.
"I'm using Pepe just as a light-hearted way of explaining some conservative values," Hauser said. “Some of the central themes are honesty, teamwork and friendship.”
But the image of Pepe the Frog has been used in other ways too, as an internet meme some have aligned with racism and the “Alt-Right” movement, which Hauser says he absolutely does not support.
"To me, that's not the symbol that I'm coming from,” Hauser said. “Pepe has been around a long time. He's been around a lot longer than, I think, that label has."
But on the streets of downtown Denton some think Hauser, the assistant principal for the new Rodriguez Middle School in Oak Point, is treading in sensitive territory.
"Tense, it is pretty tense right now," said Denton resident Nicholas Perez.
Madalyn Lopez added, "I think the imagery is questionable, especially for his position, being in a school. I just disagree with the book."
While others say, as long as he's not teaching it in school, he's entitled to his private life.
"It's free speech and sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” said Larry Ashby. “So I think people on the left and the right need to kind of get a grip and not take everything so personal.”
Regardless of political views, some say, this is a teaching moment.
"It does worry me a little bit but that could be something to open up discussion at home too. If something scares you, talk about it," said Lynnette Tjahjono.
Mario Zavala Jr., Director of Communications for Denton ISD, released the following statement Friday:
“We are aware of Mr. Hauser's publication. The book was written on his own time, using his own resources and is not affiliated with our curriculum or instruction. Mr. Hauser's book and its contents belong to him and are not tied to our district.”