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Cobb County Superintendent identifies students in anti-Semitic graffiti, but their identities remains unknown to the public


After coming under fire for their initial response, Cobb County School Superintendent Chris Ragsdale announced on Thursday that the students responsible for anti-Semitic graffiti in two Cobb County high schools have been identified and will face punishment. 

Ragsdale shared the news during the Cobb school board’s monthly work session, a public meeting held prior to the board’s evening session, that the students who scrawled a pair of swastikas and “Hail Hitler” on bathroom walls, first at Pope High School and later at Lassiter High School were caught.  

The district found itself bombarded with criticism due to their tepid response, after someone posted the graffiti images on social media. Allison Padilla-Goodman, the vice president of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) southern division found Cobb’s initial statement as lacking and said Cobb School District had “failed to characterize the incident as antisemitic.” Padilla-Goodman went on to say, “As hate crimes surge in Georgia and across the country, it’s unacceptable that Cobb County Schools is failing to address or even name antisemitic incidents occurring in their own schools and refusing to engage with ADL to respond effectively.” 

During the public comment part of the meeting, several residents and two rabbis said some Jewish people in the county no longer feel Cobb schools are safe for their children. Several speakers made their way to the lectern to share their feelings on the hate crime that had occurred at the places of learning.

In addition to the ADL’s condemnation, others also sounded off on the hate crime including Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, of East Cobb’s Temple Kol Emeth.  The day after the swastikas were found, the Rabbi was invited to address students at Pope High School to help them understand what had taken place.

Rabbi Sernovitz asked that the district implement an “allyship” program to “continue to create a school district that cares about inclusion and diversity.” Board member Dr. Jaha Howard embraced this suggestion and suggested that the board reexamine the “No Place for Hate” program that the district had previously offered in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League, but had gotten rid of. After the Board of Education passed a resolution along party lines banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT), they canceled the program and scrubbed references to it from their website.

Some in the community said that the banning of CRT by the board was the first hate crime perpetrated on the community by their racist vote. These same community voices say that the board vote sent a message and emboldend students with hate in their heart to write antisemitic graffit in the schools, thus the second hate crime occuring within the county. They wished the board had acted more responsibly with their vote and believe that this crime may not have occurred if more people had come forward to speak up for CRT at the time.

In his comments, Ragsdale suggested to the board that the graffiti “may have begun among students as a social media dare.” He went on to say, “the district does not, and will not, tolerate hate in any form.” 

Per the Superintendent, the charges against the perpetrators are proceeding through “the disciplinary tribunal process required by Georgia law.” The identity of the persons who drew the hate crime graffiti at each of the high schools have not been released, but many in the community suggest that they should not be allowed to enjoy anonymity, which the school board is upholding. They suggest that the perpetrators be treated like any common criminal that commits hate crimes and believes that the board and state should work together to enact laws to remove the protection they are enjoying.  

While saying he would not speak to the particulars of the investigation, Ragsdale asked board members to refrain from commenting on the cases before hearing any appeals, so that it does conflict with appeal rights of the students to challenge the recommended punishments, which he says is “sufficiently significant that the board members could likely hear it on appeal.” 

Ragsdale went on to say that “Some may consider our response unduly punitive, but I disagree with them. It reflects the importance of this district’s schools being environments in which all students have the opportunities for and from an … internationally competitive education, and our expectation behaviors like this will not occur.”

The district was also criticized for having scheduled its monthly board meeting on Sept. 16, which coincided this year with Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism. Following the criticism, the board course corrected and rescheduled the meeting to another day. 

“We need to keep our foot on the pedal until we see the systemic changes we’re looking for,” said Rabbi Sernovitz.

As reported by SPOTLIGHT South Cobb News, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff addressed the controversy head on when he spoke on the holy day of Yom Kippu at the Temple Emanu-El in Sandy Springs.


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