Cobb schools counselor resigns over district’s handling of racism

Jennifer Susko, a former counselor at Mableton Elementary School, resigned because of the Cobb County School District's ban of critical race theory.

Credit: Jennifer Susko

Credit: Jennifer Susko

Jennifer Susko, a former counselor at Mableton Elementary School, resigned because of the Cobb County School District's ban of critical race theory.

A Cobb County School District counselor said she resigned recently because the school board voted to ban the teaching of critical race theory in its classrooms.

Jennifer Susko, who was a counselor at Mableton Elementary School for six years, said in her resignation letter she’s also leaving because of the “district’s longstanding mistreatment of Black families who have been ignored while demanding solutions to the ongoing racism in your school system for many years.”

The letter was addressed to to Superintendent Chris Ragsdale and the district’s school board members. A Cobb schools spokeswoman said the district received Susko’s letter on Monday.

“As is the case with all contracted employees, human resources is completing the formal process and she is expected to continue her job responsibilities until a highly qualified replacement can be hired,” the district said in a statement. “Cobb teachers are back in classrooms this week and we are focused on teaching and learning as students return on Aug. 2.”

Susko, a Cobb resident, told The AJC that as a school counselor she often talks about racism, anti-racist teaching, diversity and equity with her students to help them appreciate their identity and to respect the identities of other students.

Susko said she feared she would be accused of going against the rules if she continued her approach to teaching students.

“That’s how I would have spent my year — either defending myself or compromising my entire approach and obligations as a school counselor by not addressing my kids needs, and I couldn’t do either one of those things,” she said.

Cobb County school board members last month voted to ban critical race theory and The New York Times’ 1619 Project in its schools. Its decision came weeks after its neighbor to the north, Cherokee County, approved a similar resolution.

Critical race theory seeks to highlight how racism influences all aspects of society and how past systemic inequities continue to shape policies. It’s become a flashpoint for conservatives who say it is influencing what is being taught in grade schools. The 1619 project reframes the founding of America to when the first enslaved African reached the shores what would become the United States.

The board’s four Republicans — David Banks, David Chastain, Randy Scamihorn and Brad Wheeler — voted in favor of the ban. The three Democrats — Charisse Davis, Jaha Howard and Leroy “Tre” Hutchins — abstained from the vote.

Scamihorn, who brought up the resolution, had called critical race theory “revisionist history.”

Susko is among several teachers, students, parents and community members who for years have spoken publicly to Ragsdale and Cobb school board members about the racism students experience in classrooms. These advocates, many of whom are part of the Stronger Together grassroots organization, say the district refuses to acknowledge these students’ concerns.