A Cobb County Board of Education member is questioning whether district leaders are doing enough to address hate speech after an incident involving middle school students this week.
East Cobb Middle School students displayed “hateful and antisemitic imagery,” on social media, a district spokeswoman said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The school’s principal said in an email to parents the students had been identified and would be disciplined.
In an 18-minute Facebook Live on Friday, board member Jaha Howard complained about various incidences of antisemitism in Cobb schools. He also blamed Superintendent Chris Ragsdale and the Republican board majority for the discontinuation an anti-bullying program called “No Place For Hate.”
“I want people to know that we have a board majority that purposely — purposely — does not hold our superintendent accountable to the fact that programming like No Place For Hate was removed from our schools,” he said. “Just remember when you see a news clipping about something horrible like antisemitic acts in our schools … our leadership chose to remove programming to prevent antisemitism.”
Howard is running for State School Superintendent. His comments were posted on his Facebook campaign page.
Board Chair David Chastain told the AJC on Friday that he can’t comment on issues of student discipline. He said the East Cobb Middle School incident was addressed by the school officials, which means the system is working.
“I am truly disheartened when I hear of incidents like this in the school district,” he said. “But most of the time we hear about it, we hear that it’s always being addressed.”
Credit: Ben Gray
Credit: Ben Gray
Chastain also said that decisions about programs such as No Place For Hate are made by school district officials and not elected Board of Education members.
Graffiti of swastikas and antisemitic language were found in bathrooms at Pope and Lassiter high schools last September in the midst of the Jewish High Holidays. The district was criticized at the time for not using the phrase “antisemitism” in its initial response to the incident at Pope High School.
In October, the board passed a resolution decrying racism and antisemitism. Two of the board’s three Black members, including Howard, voted against the resolution. They raised concerns about including racism in the resolution without addressing efforts to rename high schools named after Confederate military leaders. Their proposed amendments were not included in the final resolution.
After this week’s incident involving East Cobb Middle students, Principal Leetonia Young’s message to parents emphasized that such behavior will not be tolerated.
“I am saddened and extremely disappointed that some of our students would engage in such ugly, disruptive behavior,” she said.
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