Education

Cobb School District Charges Students In Anti-Semitic Incidents

The Cobb County School Board met on Thursday, Sept. 24.
The Cobb County School Board met on Thursday, Sept. 24.
Credit Martha Dalton (screen shot) / WABE

The Cobb County School District has charged the students responsible for recent anti-Semitic graffiti found at two high schools. Swastikas and graffiti praising Adolf Hitler were found on bathroom walls at Pope and Lassiter high schools recently.

“I want to be very clear, the district does not and will not tolerate hate in any form. Following an investigation, the administration has brought disciplinary charges against those responsible,” Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said at a Thursday school board meeting. “The matter is proceeding through the disciplinary tribunal process as required by Georgia law.”

Ragsdale said the graffiti was likely part of a social media challenge — called devious licks — but he didn’t excuse the actions.

“The district refuses to dismiss this incident as some sort of prank,” Ragsdale said.

The superintendent said legally he couldn’t say much about the charges.

School Board Chair Randy Scamihorn said he’s been working with Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, the senior rabbi at Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta. Scamihorn attended Yom Kippur services there at Sernovitz’s invitation.

“He and I have been discussing a potential resolution that our board could bring forward that states our values. That resolution isn’t near ready yet,” Scamihorn said. “I of course want to collaborate with my board members before bringing anything forward and want to take the time to get it right.”

Sernovitz spoke at the meeting. While he thanked Scamihorn for attending services, he said the district still has work to do.

“Our kids shouldn’t have to go to school when they’re going to be picked on because of … their Jewish identity,” he said. “So specifically, my question today to the board is, ‘What are we doing to keep our schools safe, both district-wide and locally? What are you doing to address anti-Semitism and other forms of bias?’”

Rabbi Dan Dorsch also spoke. He represented five synagogues with 2,000 Jewish families in Cobb.

“Our community was encouraged by the assurances given,” he said. “But today we stand as a community united in our disappointment that the school’s response specifically failed to address the hate by name: anti-Semitism, hatred against Jews.”

Dr. Mitzi Schepps said her youngest son was bullied for being Jewish at a Cobb middle school 10 years ago.

“He went from an outgoing happy child who loved school to a miserable, scared and withdrawn child who hated to go to school,” she said. “We will not rest until every Cobb County student knows that school is no place for hate and every staff member knows how to enforce it.”

Some community members noted that Cobb schools previously used a program called No Place for Hate, developed by the Anti-Defamation League. After banning Critical Race Theory from being taught in schools in June, the district stopped using the program.

Critical Race Theory is taught in law schools and isn’t part of the Cobb curriculum or state standards.

At the end of the meeting, Superintendent Chris Ragsdale unexpectedly gave an update on COVID-19 infection rates in the school district. Some board members requested to ask questions since the presentation was unplanned. Scamihorn, as chair, denied the requests. The three members — who are African-American — left the meeting in protest.

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