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SPLC Urges Cobb County School District to Act in the Best Interest of Students Amid Omicron Surge

COBB COUNTY, Ga. – Amidst an alarming surge in COVID cases within the past week due to the omicron variant, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is urging the Cobb County School Distict to act in the best interest of students by implementing mitigation strategies to prevent the spread of the virus in schools and keep families safe.

The Cobb County School Board opted to not address the issue during their meeting Thursday, the first since Georgia and other states across the country began reporting a significant spike in cases. Georgia recorded the highest seven-day average since the start of the pandemic. Parents remain deeply concerned about the district’s response to the pandemic, which has had a severe impact on children who make up around 17% of all new COVID cases.

Cobb & Douglas Public Health has described the current COVID case numbers as “astronomical.” And the number of hospitalized children in the metro Atlanta area is growing rapidly. Children with medical vulnerabilities have a greater risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and even death from the virus.

The following statement is from Mike Tafelski, a senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which represents a group of parents who filed suit against the district in October 2021 on behalf of their medically vulnerable children:

“Yesterday, the Cobb County School Board held a meeting to select a new chair and vice chair but failed to take up the most pressing issue facing the district, which is the recent surge of COVID cases, particularly the highly contagious omicron variant. Instead, the board majority voted for new leaders who actively oppose effective COVID mitigation strategies while continuing to disrespect, disregard, and silence Black board members who have advocated for safe COVID mitigation policies. The board’s failure to act despite repeated attempts by parents to get the district to respond to their concerns about the health and safety of their children in school, as well as the racism and discrimination that undergirds their leadership, are terribly disappointing.

“The rapid spread of omicron is causing disruptions in the classroom as students and educators are forced to stay home. It is putting the entire community in danger as hospitals once again become overrun with COVID patients.

“If the district is committed to providing an internationally competitive education, safe instructional environment, and prioritizing the community’s overwhelming preference for in-person learning, then they must demonstrate that by ensuring students and educators have access to a safe, in-person learning environment.

"We strongly urge the district to act now to implement appropriate mitigation strategies to protect its students and families. These include improving ventilation systems, requiring masks, encouraging vaccinations, providing testing sites at schools, and properly tracking confirmed cases and effectively quarantining students.

“The district has an opportunity to save lives. They need not wait for staff and students to get sick or die or wait for a court to order them to do what is in the best interest of their students and families.”