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Feds probe Atlanta and Cobb school districts for ethnic discrimination

Cassidy Alexander, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

ATLANTA — Two metro Atlanta school systems are being investigated by the Office for Civil Rights for alleged discrimination, the U.S. Department of Education recently announced.

The department released a list of school systems and colleges being investigated for possible discrimination based on “shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics” — including almost two dozen probes that began after the onset of the Israel-Hamas War. The entire list includes the Atlanta and Cobb school districts.

The Office for Civil Rights does not disclose details of its current investigations, it said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday evening.

The new list is part of “aggressive action” by the White House “to address the alarming nationwide rise in reports of antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and other forms of discrimination and harassment on college campuses and in K-12 schools,” read a news release from November.

“Hate has no place in our schools, period,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a news release. “When students are targeted because they are — or are perceived to be — Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, or any other ethnicity or shared ancestry, schools must act to ensure safe and inclusive educational environments where everyone is free to learn.”

An investigation was opened about the Cobb County School District on Tuesday, according to the website.

“We are aware of a single complaint, at a single school, about a reported anti-Muslim incident,” Cobb officials said via email Thursday. “All students in Cobb should feel safe and welcomed, we do not tolerate hate of any kind.”

Cobb is Georgia’s second-largest school district.

The Cobb investigation was first reported Thursday by the Marietta Daily Journal.

 

The APS investigation, opened July 12, is “unrelated to the Israel-Hamas War,” a district official said Friday.

“APS is an official No Place for Hate district,” a statement from the district read. “We take great pride in this fact and will continue to foster safe and inclusive environments for our students and employees in all our schools.

Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people. More than 16,000 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. Since then, tensions have heightened in several metro Atlanta schools.

School systems put out messages in October with the intent of assuring families that students were safe at school. But Jewish parents in Atlanta Public Schools criticized district leaders for not condemning the attack more strongly. And Muslim parents said the message in Cobb spread misinformation and fueled bullying and harassment of their students.

At a Cobb school board meeting on Thursday, several students and parents asked the board to implement curriculum that teaches inclusivity. It’s been a common request to Cobb leaders in recent years, including following news about antisemitic graffiti found in some schools.

The Office for Civil Rights is updating the list of investigations weekly.

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©2023 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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