After Georgia’s Cobb County School District failed to implement and enforce recommended safety protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools, the Southern Poverty Law Center and its allies filed a federal lawsuit describing how the school district’s actions unlawfully deny students with disabilities and medical conditions access to a safe, in-person learning environment.
The school district blatantly ignored the rights of students with disabilities to safe accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which prohibits government entities from denying people with disabilities equal access to public benefits and services, according to the federal lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division.
The students and their parents are seeking an emergency order requiring the Cobb County School District to immediately implement Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 prevention in public K-12 schools.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four Cobb County students and their parents. The students have medical conditions that make them more susceptible to severe illnesses if they were to contract the coronavirus, including Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, obstructed breathing and severe asthma, and a compromised immune system due to childhood leukemia.
Between March 22 and May 2, 2021, parents were required to sign a form committing their child to either in-person or virtual learning during the 2021-22 school year. In June, as COVID-19 cases surged in Cobb County and surrounding areas, the school board ended mask requirements by a vote along racial and party lines.
The board also relaxed other COVID-19 safety protocols recommended by the CDC for K-12 settings. The situation left many families, including the plaintiffs, forced to choose between their children’s health or their education.