During the September Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Chris Ragsdale took the opportunity to address misinformation and confirm the focus of the Cobb County School District—to put student learning first so Cobb remains the best place to teach, lead, and learn.
First, Superintendent Ragsdale assured the Board that the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl was never canceled, and no employee is or was being threatened with termination or discipline for participating in the reading bowl despite reports to the contrary. In reference to the false reports, he stressed that “those individuals are doing nothing more than engaging in fear-mongering and are completely irresponsible in their actions and statements.”
Secondly, Superintendent Ragsdale addressed false rumors that book fairs have been canceled. They have not. However, Superintendent Ragsdale stressed, “We will be looking into the companies with which the District will be working with to conduct future book fairs, ensuring those companies agree to follow and abide by the District’s policies and State law.”
Continuing to refute misinformation, Superintendent Ragsdale further clarified the District’s position on books available in school media centers.
“The Cobb County School District is not engaging in book-banning or book-burning,” Superintendent Ragsdale said. “We are following well-established federal and state law and policies and practices of this District that have been with us for years, if not decades. Instruction in this District is built around Georgia state standards, not any individual or group’s political agenda.”
The District’s obligation to protect students and keep students safe is not a radical idea. Instead, Superintendent Ragsdale pointed to the “radical new idea” that “all children should somehow be forced to encounter sexually explicit language and instruction while at school.”
“We have an independent professional obligation to protect students from lewd and vulgar materials regardless of whether any parent, group, or outside entity files a complaint,” Superintendent Ragsdale added.
Regarding how books are removed, the Superintendent stressed that there is a process, but he does not have to wait on a parent to complain, and he is not usurping the Board’s authority to execute his “professional and moral obligation to protect Cobb’s students from being exposed to vulgar, lewd, sexually explicit, obscene and pornographic material.”
The books were not pulled casually, and the Superintendent encourages those who oppose the District’s actions to review the books themselves. For Superintendent Ragsdale, it does not matter the method of how the District learned that vulgar, lewd, sexually explicit, obscene, or pornographic material being present; it matters what action the District takes.
“If you need someone to blame for deciding to remove books, ‘Flamer,’ and ‘Me, Early, and the Dying Girl,’ you can blame me,” Superintendent Ragsdale said. “The Cobb County School District will not knowingly allow this material to be accessed by children in this District.
As Superintendent Ragsdale continued his remarks, he reemphasized the District’s belief in family choice and families’ right to raise their own children.
“I, as superintendent, will not knowingly allow children in the Cobb County School District to access lewd, vulgar, sexually explicit, obscene, or pornographic material. Let me be clear: anyone working in education who knowingly provides students with access to sexually explicit, obscene, or pornographic material should not be in a position of educating other parents’ children,” said Superintendent Ragsdale.
The process is not over. The District will continue to review books in school media centers and remove books containing sexually explicit, obscene, or pornographic material. When purchasing books, Superintendent Ragsdale assured the Board, that the District will also ensure that companies adhere to Board policies and State law in order to do business with Cobb Schools.
“I want to be very clear. This situation is about right and wrong, good and evil. There is no middle ground in this situation. You are either in favor of providing inappropriate material to children, or you are against it. I assure you. I am against it, and I will not be moved.”
Leading up to the Superintendent’s remarks, the Board heard a report on the success of Cobb students on the 2023 Georgia Milestones assessment. As the report explained, Cobb students outperformed metro peers in all subjects on the most recent state assessment. A higher percentage of Cobb students also read on grade level when compared to all but one metro school district. Cobb students are at the top of the list for 6-7 grades and American Literature.
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