Cobb County School Board to Reconsider Disputed Student Expulsion Case
Black students and students with disabilities in Cobb County are disproportionately disciplined. Though Black students comprised only 31% of the district’s student population in 2017, they made up nearly 58% of the students who were suspended from school.
COBB COUNTY, Ga. – Today, the Cobb County Board of Education will vote again to decide whether to affirm the finding that N.G., a former Campbell High School student, violated the code of conduct. N.G. is one of hundreds of Black students and students with disabilities who face expulsion in Cobb County each year – a predictable outcome after years of neglect by the school district, which failed to provide N.G. with the evaluative and support services his mother requested and to which he was entitled under the law.
In May 2022, the Georgia Board of Education reversed the district’s decision to expel N.G. because his due process rights were violated. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has represented N.G. throughout the student disciplinary process and filed the most recent appeal with the Cobb County Board of Education after a disciplinary hearing officer again found N.G. guilty following the state board’s decision.
“The Board should reverse the disciplinary decision because it was contrary to law, arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and a violation of N.G.’s right to due process, and because the district unlawfully retaliated against N.G. for exercising his right to appeal, by initiating new discipline proceedings and seeking an extended punishment in violation of his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments,” the appeal filing states.
The Cobb County Board of Education will vote on the appeal at the next meeting on Thursday, September 15.
"I don't understand why the district dragged us back into this. I pay taxes. My taxpayer money is for N.G. to go to school in this county,” N.G.’s mother said. “But he won’t go to his high school prom or do anything he should be doing in high school because the district pushed him out. Now, N.G. has finished his expulsion and gotten his GED, but it seems like the district is still trying to tell him he's not welcome. Did anyone from the district ever think maybe he needed help? No. No one ever tried to do anything. And I did go to the school to ask for help. But this is what we got."
The following statement is from Claire Sherburne, senior attorney for the SPLC’s Children's Rights Practice Group:
“N.G. has long moved on and is now pursuing a career as an HVAC technician in an area outside of Cobb County. Still, at significant taxpayer expense, Cobb County’s lawyers pursued a new hearing, seeking to extend N.G.’s expulsion to the 2022-2023 school year. We believe that this decision, led by Superintendent Chris Ragsdale, was an illegal act of retaliation for N.G.’s successful appeal to the state board of education, and should be reversed by the Cobb County Board of Education at Thursday's meeting.
“Though N.G. was accused of possessing a vape pen that allegedly contained THC, the school failed to prove it during the hearing. The school resource officer acknowledged in his testimony that the result of the field test he administered, with no prior experience, was inconclusive. Yet, the hearing officer found N.G. in violation of the rule based solely on this insufficient and unreliable evidence.
“We will continue to stand with students like N.G., caregivers, and community members who seek to dismantle these racist and discriminatory systems and practices in pursuit of real educational justice.”
In May 2022, the Georgia Board of Education unanimously voted to reverse the Cobb County Board of Education’s prior decision to expel N.G. because his due process rights were violated.
While his appeal to the state board was pending, N.G. served his entire expulsion, obtained his GED, and moved out of Cobb County. There is no chance he will be enrolled in a Cobb County school again. Yet, the Cobb County School District (CCSD) used public funds and resources to initiate a new disciplinary hearing on August 3, 2022, seeking to extend the length of the already-served expulsion to the 2022-2023 school year. Ultimately, the hearing officer decided not to extend the expulsion but found N.G. guilty. The SPLC appealed that decision, which will be decided at the board’s September 15, 2022 meeting.
Cobb County routinely tramples on the rights of students without resistance and by denying students facing exclusionary discipline a fundamentally fair process. For too long, Black students and students with disabilities, like N.G., have been disproportionately harmed by Cobb County’s discriminatory and ineffective discipline practices.
During the 2021-2022 school year, CCSD conducted 739 discipline hearings, seeking long-term exclusion of students in the district. Only 21 of those students had a lawyer. Students in CCSD, like N.G., are presumed guilty. School disciplinary hearings are generally sham exercises used to achieve that predetermined outcome.