On August 23, 2016, the United States filed a lawsuit against the State of Georgia in federal district court to remedy violations of the ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act, Title II) pertaining to the State’s failure to provide thousands of public school students with behavior-related disabilities with appropriate mental health and therapeutic educational services and supports in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.
The Department of Justice investigation found that the State unnecessarily relies on segregated settings to serve students with behavior-related disabilities in the GNETS Program ((Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support), through which the State unnecessarily segregates thousands of students from their peers. The GNETS Centers severely restrict interactions between students with disabilities and their peers in general education, depriving them of the opportunity to benefit from the stimulation and range of interactions that occur there, including opportunities to learn, observe, and be influenced by their non-disabled peers.
The State also 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.
The State can reasonably modify its programs, policies, and services [policies, practices, or procedures] to remedy these Title II violations and avoid discrimination against students in or at risk of placement in the GNETS Program. This can be accomplished by:
- properly evaluating or reevaluating students’ service needs and whether those needs can be met in general education classes or schools;
- applying entrance and exit standards for the Program that are appropriate, clearly identified, equitably applied, and shared with all students and families;
- redirecting the State’s resources to offer effective behavioral and mental health and educational services for students with behavior-related disabilities in, or at risk of placement in, the GNETS Program in the most integrated setting appropriate for them; and
- ensuring that students in the GNETS Program with behavior-related disabilities are provided educational and extracurricular opportunities equal to those of their peers in general education.
To read the “Letter of Findings: https://www.ada.gov/olmstead/olmstead_cases_list2.htm
Addendum: In May, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Georgia schools assign a vastly disproportionate number of African-American students to GNETS programs. The newspaper also examined psychological experimentation by a GNETS psychologist, as well as the extensive use of physical restraint to control children’s behavior. Since 2014, restraints were used nearly 10,000 times — five times more than at the state’s other 2,300 public schools combined.