Feds Sue: Georgia’s Segregated Schools for Kids with Disabilities Are Illegal

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On August 23, 2016, the United States Department of Justice filed suit against the State of Georgia for discriminating against thousands of public school students with behavior and emotional disabilities by placing these students in a separate and unequal educational program.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, alleges that Georgia’s services for students with behavior-related disabilities

unnecessarily segregates students with disabilities in GNETS when they could appropriately be served with their peers in general education settings.

This program, known as the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support Program (“GNETS”), has been financed, operated and administered by the State of Georgia since 1970.

The lawsuit is the first challenge to a state-run school system for segregating students with disabilities.

Press Release:   https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-sues-georgia-unnecessarily-segregating-students-disabilities

Federal Court Complaint:   https://www.ada.gov/olmstead//documents/gnets_complaint.html

Background of Georgia Discrimination Case

In 2011, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a civil rights complaint against GNETS for systemic unnecessary reliance on the segregated GNETS Program across the State of Georgia, as a result of the State’s administration, operation, and funding of the GNETS Program, including the GNETS Program’s admissions, services, and facilities.

https://www.splcenter.org/news/2015/07/24/after-splc-complaint-doj-finds-georgia-program-violates-disabilities-act

Four years after the SPLC complaint, the U.S. Department of Justice issued an “extensive findings letter” determined that Georgia discriminated against students with disabilities by segregating them from other students.

The Letter of Finding to Georgia Governor Deal and Attorney General Olens (July 15, 2015) concluded that Georgia:

violates the ADA and discriminates against children with disabilities by unnecessarily relying on, and creating incentives for school districts to choose, a segregated GNETS program to provide behavioral and mental health services, and by providing students in the GNETS Program opportunities to participate in services that are unequal to the services offered to students outside the GNETS Program.

https://www.ada.gov/olmstead/documents/gnets_lof.pdf

The U.S. Department of Justice is involved in discrimination cases in other states, including Ohio, Mississippi, South Dakota, Oregon, West Virginia, Alabama, and Pennsylvania.

You can read about these cases, investigations, and other ADA Olmstead Enforcement efforts here:

https://www.ada.gov/olmstead//olmstead_cases_list2.htm

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4 Comments on "Feds Sue: Georgia’s Segregated Schools for Kids with Disabilities Are Illegal"

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What if the IEP team agreed to this placement? Some parents do look for segregated school to ensure their children get the proper services and supports they need.

How does this align with placement standards, which allows for students to be moved from a charter or public alternative school to another school because the district states their home school is able to provide services, and they are not? The school states that districts, not schools have an obligation to meet requirements.

These centers are not even considered schools, they are a segregated “program”. Students are referred to these by the school districts and parents are not given alternative choices of placement as the district says these children must go there………

The GA DOE is also revising a rule for the GNETS which seeks to increase the opportunity of ALL students with challenging behaviors to be in the most restrictive or placement, which is not a school, but a program. The draft rule also allows the IEP committee to determine what a FAPE is for the child. Thus, parents signing in approval will be saying their child received a FAPE. This draft rule, if adopted will be very bad law. They are using this rule to fight the allegation that they do not provide a FAPE statewide. This will be a bad rule that will limit parents’ rights to due process, freedom of speech, meaningful participation, and recently LEA’s have started disallowing advocates if the parent fails to notify the LEA before meetings. They are fighting back in an ugly way.

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