SPLC appeals district court ruling on their lawsuit against the Cobb County School District

The logo on front of a Cobb County School District facilityCobb County School District sign (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has appealed a decision of Chief Judge Timothy Batten, of the

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, to deny an emergency order the SPLC and two local law firms had requested on behalf of four Cobb County students with disabilities.

Read the Courier’s past coverage of the lawsuit by following this link.

The SPLC issued the following press release this afternoon:

COBB COUNTY, Ga. – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Law Office of Allison B. Vrolijk and Goodman Law Firm filed a notice of appeal of the Court’s decision last month denying Cobb County students with disabilities emergency COVID-19 protections that would allow them to attend school safely in-person, according to an appeal notice filed today.

The lawsuit, filed on Oct. 1, alleges that the Cobb County School District’s failure to implement federal health and safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their schools discriminates against students with disabilities, including those with medical vulnerabilities. Lawyers for the plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the district but was denied by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

“This case isn’t just about masks, this is about disability discrimination in the Cobb County School District and ensuring that all children have an equal opportunity to access an in-person learning environment,” said Mike Tafelski, senior supervising attorney for the SPLC. “The district’s continued refusal to follow CDC guidelines and ensure safe schools for all students effectively deny our clients the access they are entitled to under federal law.

Since the start of the school year, student plaintiffs have not been receiving an in-person education. They are forced into virtual or asynchronous learning options where they are segregated from their nondisabled peers and deprived of critical social and educational opportunities, in violation of their rights.  

Beth Baird, one of the parents suing on behalf of her child, said: “Online interactions are not the same as in person interactions. Isolating students with disabilities in virtual learning when that is not their choice – when they could attend class face to face with accommodations – is segregation. We’ve been trying to move away from segregating and isolating children with disabilities for too long to take steps backward now.”

To learn more about the lawsuit, visit: https://www.splcenter.org/seeking-justice/case-docket/le-et-al-v-chris-ragsdale-et-al.

The Appeal

The appeal, dated November 10, states:

Plaintiffs in the above-styled case, L.E., by and through their parent and next
friend, Sara Cavorley, B.B., by and through their parent and next friend Elizabeth
Baird, A.Z., by and through their parent and next friend, Jessica Zeigler, and C.S.,
by and through their parent and next friend, Tarasha Shirley, hereby appeal this
Court’s Order (Doc. 54), entered on October 15, 2021, denying Plaintiffs’ Motion
for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction, to the United States
Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.