- Associated Press - Thursday, August 18, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) - The U.S. Department of Justice says it will file a lawsuit claiming Georgia is violating the civil rights of disabled students.

The DOJ is accusing the state of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by segregating disabled students through its Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support, or GNETS, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (https://bit.ly/2b0bi5I) reported Wednesday.

The act requires disabled students to receive the same level of education as children who are not impaired.

“We have determined that we must pursue the United States’ claims in federal court to vindicate the rights of thousands of affected students with behavior-related disabilities across Georgia,” Vanita Gupta, who heads the department’s civil rights division, wrote Monday to Gov. Nathan Deal and other state officials.

Deal’s spokeswoman said she was unaware of the letter.



For half a year, federal and state officials swapped proposals on the so-called psychoeducational schools. But the two sides were unable to come to terms on the key issue of whether Georgia could continue segregating children with behavioral and emotional disabilities.

Last year, the justice department notified state officials that an investigation found illegal segregation in GNETS. The DOJ said it had discovered schools where students with disabilities had no contact with students without disabilities.

The state’s legal bills show both sides drafted several proposed agreements to settle the case without a lawsuit, but were unable to come to an agreement, the newspaper reported. The bills state that the lawyers considered at least six proposed agreements.

“You’d hope they would have agreed on some points,” said Leslie Lipson, a lawyer with the Georgia Advocacy Office who has dealt with the GNETS cases. “There is not a single agreement that came to fruition.”

Last month, state officials ordered nine GNETS facilities to immediately shut down after citing safety and health concerns. Disabled students were expected to be moved after the facilities were shut down, but the newspaper reported they were transferred to other buildings separate from students who are not disabled.

“These efforts suggest the state intends to continue to fund, operate and administer a separate, segregated and unequal statewide service system,” Gupta wrote.

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, https://www.ajc.com

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