The 2021-22 school year in Cobb County was rocked by several incidents of antisemitism. What made these worse, according to parents of students in those schools, was the inadequate response from the Cobb County School District.
In February 2022, a Jewish student reported that classmates at East Cobb Middle School on Terrell Mill Road were photographed wearing an armband with a swastika and demonstrated the Nazi salute. The photographs were posted on social media.
During the previous Jewish High Holy Days, graffiti including swastikas and “Hail Hitler” were scrawled above urinals in school bathrooms in Pope and Lassiter High Schools. The Cobb school district was strongly criticized for not addressing the antisemitic aspect of the graffiti, only calling it “hate speech.”
In a statement after the East Cobb Middle School incident, the school board said, “Several students, after school, made a very poor decision to display hateful and antisemitic imagery while recording themselves on social media. The students will be disciplined according to district policies, and we encourage parents to talk to their students about using social media responsibly.”
In a comment posted on Twitter, the Southern Division of the Anti-Defamation League stated, “Antisemitic messages at Cobb County public schools persist with no clear path forward. We have a responsibility to targeted Jewish families and are still open to work with the schools. An anti-hate resolution without action is not enough to effect change.”
Several families of East Cobb Middle School attend Chabad of Cobb synagogue. Rabbi Ephraim Silverman released a statement, acknowledging that “this is obviously extremely hurtful and painful for the Jewish community and really for all decent people living in our community. We have Holocaust survivors and the children of survivors in our community so you can imagine the emotions that these images evoke. There is no place for this kind of behavior in our society.”
He added, however, that “we do need to give the school the opportunity to address this and to take appropriate action. I am hoping that lessons from recent events at some of the other schools will help guide the schools’ handling of this. I also feel that it is important that we do not allow these isolated acts of stupidity and hate to change the way we see our community and society. I have personally been working in many of the local schools for 20 years providing support for the schools’ Jewish clubs. And I will tell you that 99 percent are kind, tolerant and respectful. Let’s not allow a few juvenile idiots [to] change the way we view our neighbors.”
Congregation Kol Emeth Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, also in Cobb County, who reacted to the earlier antisemitic acts in the Cobb County schools, called the latest incident “just another example of the schools not doing enough to educate our kids about history.” He called the school board more “reactive rather than proactive,” and said that they need to change their curriculum and programming “so this kind of stuff wouldn’t happen. Otherwise, we just have to get used to it.”