Georgia students with EBD unnecessarily segregated and denied equal services

On 15 July 2015, The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice declared that the U.S. state of Georgia had been illegally segregating students with behavior disorders from their peers and failing to provide them with appropriate educational services. The case arises because of a public system in Georgia called the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS) Program, a statewide system of services designed for students with emotional or behavioral health needs that began in the 1970s and today serves approximately 5000 students.

According to a letter sent to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney Gen. Sam Olens, Georgia

in its operation and administration of the GNETS Program, violates Title II of the ADA by unnecessarily segregating students with disabilities from their peers. In addition, the GNETS Program provides opportunities to its students that are unequal to those provided to students throughout the State who are not in the GNETS Program.

Read the letter sent to Govenor Deal and Attorney General Olens over the signature of Vanita Gupta, Justice’s Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

The Justice Department letter details the ways in which the GNETS Program violates his various aspects of the ADA standards:

  1. “The state fails to provide services to students in the GNETS program in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs”: (A) GNETS students receive services in segregated settings; (D) Georgia unnecessarily relies on segregated placements for the GNETS program; (C) most students in GNETS Programs could be served in integrated programs; (D) state administrative procedures unnecessarily favor placement in the GNETS program.
  2. “The segregated GNETS Program provides unequal educational opportunities to students”: (A) The GNETS Program does not provide electives and extracurricular activities; (B) the GNETS Program facilities are unequal to general education facilities; (C) the GNETS Program provides unequal instructional services and curricula commpared to what students in general ed. programs receive.
  3. “Georgia can make reasonable modifications to avoid discrimination against students with behavior-related disabilities.”

The Justice letter ends with recommendations about remedial measures and a conclusion expressing the hope that Justice and the state of Georgia can continue to work together to resolve the issues.

This story has been covered by Marian Wang (“Georgia is Segregating Troublesome Kids in Schools Used During Jim Crow“) of ProPublica, an advocacy group, and that story was picked up by Slate’s Laura Moser (“Georgia Sends Kids With Disabilities and Behavior Problems to Special Schools. That’s Segregation“), the online magazine. The link I cited, however, takes you directly to the original source. The popular sources may be able to keep up with developments as they occur. I shall keep an eye out, too.

There is more to say about this case, but that’ll have to wait. Let’s get this out first.

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