As a Parent, the Trend of Retaliation from Cobb County Schools Against Concerned Parents is Alarming

education icon with silhouette of teach in front of class, holding a baton to a board.

by John Popham

In their weekly newsletter last Friday, the Cobb County School District shared a sharply worded message regarding a recent lawsuit settlement between the county board of elections and four parents of the school district. 

In the post’s opening line, the school system pounced on the parents who had brought the lawsuit by calling them “leftist political activists” and continued ramping up wild accusations throughout the piece. 

As I read this official statement in my inbox on Friday, I was hit by the true underlying intent of the message. ‘If you advocate for your children in a way we don’t like, we will use the weight of the system to crush you in front of everyone.” 

It’s shocking to see the system turn on a group of parents in this way, but unfortunately this is not the first time Cobb County Schools has turned its back on parents advocating for their children. 

In February, the State of Georgia found CCSD to be in violation of state law, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act when the district discriminated against a child with Down Syndrome. A few months later, the parent had to petition the state again, alleging the system was retaliating against her by withholding services. 

As the end of 2023 approaches, it seems the school system is lashing out at parents once again. Except this time the central office had the audacity to email every parent in the district with an article that reads more like a rant seen on social media rather than a professional statement. 

The message doesn’t name the parents directly, rather the district blames the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit and non-partisan group that represents citizens who have been ignored or discriminated against by their government officials. Given the incidents from this year alone, they’re involvement should not be surprising. 

The lawsuit CCSD mentions in the post involves four parents who sued the school system on claims the school board shifted district lines so that minority populations would be concentrated in the same districts. Cobb Schools requested to be dismissed from the lawsuit, leaving the County Board of Elections as the sole defendant. 

Now, state law says that the Georgia General Assembly will get final say when it comes to election maps once the settlement is final. However, that did not stop CCSD from telling parents that those who dared to speak up against them were involved in backroom politics and crooked deals with Georgia Democrats and the state’s favorite boogie lady Stacey Abrams.  

It is concerning how quickly CCSD leadership turns on members of their own community, whether it is a religious group feeling threatened by the district’s messaging or a teacher reading a book she purchased from the bookfair. 

This pattern of erratic behavior is not how a system governed by elected officials should behave when criticized by the people they serve. Instead, Friday’s communication reads as if current elected board members and the superintendent are terrified of losing their jobs if they don’t crack down and discredit these four parents advocating for their children. 

In fact, one of the points in last week’s post refers to a petition to remove Superintendent Chris Ragsdale as if that is evidence of a dark conspiracy rather than the ringing disapproval from parents of the state’s second largest school district. Even if any petition managed to succeed, Ragsdale managed to have his contract amended a few years ago to allow him to quit and collect severance pay if the board embarrasses him. 

I want to make one thing crystal clear: this is a leadership failure at Cobb County Schools and it does not reflect public education as a whole. The district employs thousands of hardworking teachers who represent what educating students is all about. We may not always agree with them, but they are the experts and our partners in this process. The only thing the Cobb County School District showed last week through their messaging was bitter partisanship and we deserve better. 

John Popham is a resident of Kennesaw and parent in the Cobb County School District