U.S. District Court in Atlanta to Hear COVID-19 Lawsuit for Cobb County Students with Disabilities

coronavirus imposed on Cobb County School District signagePhoto by Larry Johnson composited with public domain image from the CDC (created by LFJ)

By Rebecca Gaunt

The matter of masks and other COVID-19 CDC recommendations in the Cobb County School District will go in front of a judge Friday.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Goodmark Law Firm, and the Law Office of Allison B. Vrolijk are representing the families of four students with disabilities. The parents say their medically vulnerable children cannot safely attend school this year since the district dropped the mask mandate and other CDC-recommended safety protocols that were in place last year.

The lawsuit requests an emergency order for the district to implement CDC guidelines.

Two of the students have IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) and two have 504 plans. All four have medical conditions that put them at high risk for COVID-19 complications.

The Courier previously published an interview with the families that can be read here.

Earlier this week, the district filed paperwork indicating it intends to fight against implementing the guidelines, writing, “This Court should reject Plaintiffs’ invitation to weigh in on matters of local politics by second-guessing the wisdom of CCSD’s COVID-19 mask policy.”

The district later states, “The District’s safety measures set forth over 50 distinct actions the District is taking to mitigate against the risk of COVID-19,” based on a declaration submitted by John Floresta, the district’s chief strategy and accountability officer.

The SPLC also filed a response this week that included a declaration from a CCSD special education teacher who said she has not witnessed any enhanced cleaning procedures, nor received any formal training on reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure. It also submitted emails that have been sent to parents from board member David Banks discouraging vaccination and filled with false information.

The press release from the SPLC is copied below:

ATLANTA – Tomorrow, October 15, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, will hear oral arguments about the emergency injunctive relief requested by Cobb County students with disabilities and their parents who sued the Cobb County School District for violating their federal rights to safe accommodations for in-person learning.

The lawsuit states that the school district’s failure to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to reduce COVID-19 transmission in schools puts students with medical vulnerabilities at risk of severe illness and even death. They are asking the Court to issue an emergency order requiring the district to implement CDC guidelines to protect all students.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Goodmark Law Firm  and the  Law Office of Allison B. Vrolijk are representing the students in the lawsuit.

WHO: SPLC Attorney Claire Sherburne to argue the case on behalf of Cobb County students with disabilities and their parents

WHAT: Federal court hearing in lawsuit challenging the Cobb County School District’s refusal to implement COVID-19 safety protocols to protect students with disabilities

WHEN: Friday, October 15, 2021, 10:00 a.m. ET

WHERE: Courtroom 2106

Richard B. Russell Federal Building

2211 United States Courthouse

75 Ted Turner Drive, SW

Atlanta, Georgia

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.