DOJ Finds State of GA Violates Federal Law with (GNETS) Separate and Unequal Educational System for Children with Disabilities
GREAT NEWS for GA students in GNETS!
From Leslie Kulbersh Lipson - From the US Department of Justice: "On July 15, 2015, the United States sent its findings to the State of Georgia stating that the State’s administration of the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS) program violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act by unnecessarily segregating students with disabilities from their peers in school. The State fails to ensure that students with behavior-related disabilities receive services and supports that could enable them to remain in, or return to, the most integrated educational placements appropriate to their needs."http://1.usa.gov/1MaDdeq
DOJ Finds State of Georgia Violates Federal Law with Separate and Unequal
Educational System for Children with Disabilities
Decatur, Ga., July 15 -- The State of Georgia has violated federal disability rights law by placing thousands of children with “behavior-related disorders” such as autism in a separate and unequal educational system, a Department of Justice investigation released today said.
Students with disabilities are unlawfully segregated from their peers in Georgia and denied educational opportunities as a result, the DOJ’s letter of findings said.
The result: “school is like a prison,” one child said. “It’s a warehouse for kids the school system doesn’t want or know how to deal with,” a parent told investigators.
The federal government finds the state to be in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Georgia is the only state with an entirely separate, state-funded system for educating students with disabilities.
“Georgia has created a whole culture of throwing kids away with this system,” said Ruby Moore, executive director of the Georgia Advocacy Office, which provided information about the issue to the DOJ throughout its two-year investigation.
The federal agency’s findings concern the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support, or GNETS, a statewide network created in 1970 that consists of two dozen centers serving about 5,000 children with at least $70 million in state and federal funds, plus additional locally- and federally-funded services.
The network denies students equal access to resources widely available in public schools, such as physical education, art, music, gifted classes, electives -- or even regular interactions with teachers, as much of the instruction, particularly at the high school level, is online. They don’t have the opportunity to interact socially with other children in their communities and school systems, including at such events as football games, dances and other events important to children.
Families also reported feeling “pushed” or “forced” into the GNETS program after one or several incidents involving their children. Investigators uncovered cases such as a public school student who was disciplined for being “verbally disruptive,” suspended for ten days, and then sent to GNETS. In another case, a student had been doing well with in-school supportive services in another state, only to have those services denied upon arriving to Georgia, with GNETS the only option offered his family.
The DOJ also found the network’s facilities to be “inferior,” often outdated and lacking such basic infrastructure as central air conditioning, as well as educational resources such as science labs and libraries, and extracurricular facilities such as gyms and playgrounds. Some of the GNETS facilities are actually located in buildings that were formerly used as segregated schools ultimately deemed illegal under Brown v. Board of Education.
“Placing children with disabilities in a separate system doesn’t promote emotional and behavioral development and learning, is contrary to best practices in the field, and is against the letter and spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Moore said.
The GAO is the federally-designated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities in Georgia.
For further information, please contact: Ruby Moore, executive director, the Georgia Advocacy Office, Tel. 404-885-1234.
The DOJ Letter of Finding can be found here: http://www.ada.gov/olmstead/documents/gnets_lof.pdf
Posted by: Leslie Lipson <LLipson@thegao.org>
Previous information posted about GNETS on IEPadvocate4you Blog: