Cobb County School District accused of retaliation after parent filed complaint with state

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

By Rebecca Gaunt

The mother of a 5-year-old denied disability services by the Cobb County School District is now petitioning the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings for a due process hearing alleging the district continues to withhold services as retaliation for her successful complaint to the state, including requiring the student to change schools to receive services and cutting summer services by 70%. 

A press release from the Southern Poverty Law Center states, “The petition claims that the school district continues to violate the student’s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

In February, the Georgia Department of Education informed the Cobb County School District that it violated least restrictive environment (LRE) requirements (34 C.F.R. § 300.114), implementation of IEP (34 C.F.R. § 300.320), opportunity to examine records; parent participation in meetings (34 C.F.R. § 300.501), and FAPE (34 C.F.R. §§ 300.101 and 300.17).

Read the February letter from the GaDOE to CCSD in full here.

The Courier spoke with the mother, Brenda Rodriguez, and her attorney Eugene Choi, a children’s rights attorney for the SPLC, in February after the state first found in her son’s favor. Read the article here.

Her nonverbal son has Down syndrome and feeding issues, which qualified him for an intensive eight-week feeding therapy program conducted by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Marcus Institute. Despite submitting paperwork from her son’s doctor and an initial approval of hospital/homebound services (HHB) by the district office, school administrators and therapists on the IEP team disagreed it was medically necessary and denied the requested services.

From the press release:

In February, the Georgia Department of Education ordered the Cobb County School District to compensate the student for special education services that were wrongly denied to the student while he was receiving medically necessary treatment for a chronic feeding disorder. The department also ordered district-wide changes to policies and procedures under the IDEA and Hospital/Homebound services program.  But in an individualized education plan (IEP) meeting on March 13, 2023, district representatives stated that the student would not be permitted to attend his current school in the upcoming 2023-2024 school year, and instead must enroll in a separate school so that he would be with other similarly disabled children.

The petition states that after the SPLC filed a grievance against the district on behalf of the student, the district cut the student’s IEP summer services by over 70 percent in retaliation. The district is also refusing to implement any of the student’s IEP services unless he goes to a different school to be with other children who it claims are more like him.

The petition requests a hearing before the Office of State Administrative Hearings to end discrimination against the student and prevent further harm. 

“By law and an order from the Georgia Department of Education, the district must provide our young client with a free and appropriate public education through his individualized education plan,” said Choi. “However, the district has chosen to do whatever it can to minimize its obligation to this child; the district has gone too far. We have exhausted all options to get the district to stop violating our client’s rights. Unfortunately, the district has left us with no choice but to bring this action.” 

The district has not responded to a request for comment.

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.