Civil rights complaint filed against Cobb County Schools over book removal

The Cobb County School District is the target of a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights over the removal of multiple books from school libraries.

The complaint was filed Monday by The National Women's Law Center against the Cobb County and another school district in Florida, the Marietta Daily Journal reported.  

The complaint comes less than a month after Cobb County School Superintendent Chris Ragsdale announced the district would remove four books from its media centers.

"It Ends with Us," "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," "Lucky," and "Thirteen Reasons Why" were all identified by the district as having lewd, vulgar, graphic, or sexually explicit content.

MORE: 'It's a battle against good and evil': Cobb schools superintendent defends book removal

The titles join three other books banned by the district in 2023 -- "Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl," "Flamed," and "Blankets." Cobb Schools had previously said they planned to remove 25 books from libraries.

"I have made a distinct statement saying that protecting children from age-inappropriate and graphic explicit sexual material is a battle between good and evil," Ragsdale said at the meeting where he made the announcement.

The National Women's Law Center claims that Cobb County has targeted books that deal with race or are written by LGBTQ+ authors.

"Both public schools are systemically marginalizing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) students in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and students of color in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI)," the complaint reads. "The discriminatory efforts to censor these books and learning materials have harmed students by creating and fostering a hostile environment in which they feel unsafe to be who they are at school, feel unsupported or in their identities, and cannot see themselves reflected in what they learn at school."

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Cobb County defends removing books from schools

District leaders have not commented publicly about the lawsuit, but Ragsdale had argued against critics calling the decision to remove the books from school libraries a "book ban," pointing to the books' continued availability in stores, homes, and public libraries unaffiliated with the school as evidence.

"So many people are erroneously presenting this as book banning. Again, that is erroneous and could not be further from the truth. We are not banning books no more than we are banning rated R or NC17 movies," he said.

He also defended the removal of the seven books, saying that the material found in their pages "has no place in any school or in the hands of any child."

Ragsdale told FOX 5 the district will continue to review the many books in its media centers and remove any deemed inappropriate due to lewd, graphic, vulgar, or sexually explicit content.

The Cobb County School District is under a separate investigation by the DOE's Office of Civil Rights for what a district spokesperson told ABC News was a complaint about an "anti-Muslim incident."