Superintendent to remove more books from Cobb schools 

Ava Bussey

[Screenshot of Ava Bussey speaking during public comment at Cobb school board meeting]

by Rebecca Gaunt

Cobb County School District Superintendent Chris Ragsdale gave a shout out to the Marietta City school board Thursday for upholding its decision to remove 23 books from school libraries, citing sexual content as the reason.

Those books are now on the chopping block in CCSD.

“They’ve been working on the same problem, just with a few less books,” he said.

The Marietta board voted to ban the books from schools in December. A group of parents filed appeals to reinstate them, but were defeated in a 6-1 vote Tuesday.

Cobb student Ava Bussey told the board during public comment that it has been silencing student voices. 

“I have been here every month for the past five months, but have not been able to speak up until today. That’s because today is my 18th birthday,” she said. “We’re old enough to work, to drive, and most importantly, we’re old enough to experience the hostile environment that Cobb County creates for us, but not old enough to speak up in this room.

“Success in our schools looks like a welcoming environment for LGBTQ students instead of hostile attacks on our identities via book bans,” Bussey continued.

She also called for more counselors, referenced policies that she said are censoring Black history, and criticized the district’s decision to make attendees stand in the cold weather to sign up for public comment.

Student Hunter Buchheit said, “Here book bans were spurred by an email from a notorious right-wing blogger, leading to the removal of titles like ‘Flamer,’ which deals with a queer main character whose experiences mirror my own…You can’t love freedom, or love learning, and ban books.”

During his superintendent remarks at the end of the meeting, Ragsdale once again called the decision to remove the books a matter of good and evil, and said the Cobb County School District is currently working on pulling the titles on the Marietta list from CCSD.

He also repeated what he has said in previous board meetings, that it does not matter how the district becomes aware of a sexually explicit book, in response to criticism of the district for pulling books last year at the behest of the right wing social media account Libs of Tik Tok.

Both Ragsdale and Marietta City Schools Superintendent Grant Rivera have denied accusations that books are being targeted for LGBTQ content, pointing to removed titles containing heterosexual relationships.

Ragsdale has not publicly addressed the Courier’s December publication of an article regarding three central office employees in charge of media and accountability, John Floresta, Julian Onan Coca, and Eric Rauch, who have ties to an anti-LGBTQ designated hate group. He has not responded to a request for an interview or questions via email.

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.