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NDRN Applauds Department of Justice Action Against the Georgia Network for Education and Therapeutic Support Program

For Immediate Release             
9/1/2016                        

Contact: David Card
202.408.9514 x122
press@ndrn.org

WASHINGTON – The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is very pleased that the Justice Department has continued to pursue action against the state of Georgia alleging that its treatment and segregation of students with disabilities in the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS) Program violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).                   

The Department filed a lawsuit alleging that Georgia’s administration of its mental health and therapeutic educational 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.  The community integration mandate of the ADA and the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C. require states to make services available to people with disabilities – including children with behavioral disabilities – in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.  The complaint seeks to enforce these requirements.

In an earlier investigation, the department found that most students in GNETS spend their entire school day, including meals, exclusively with other students with disabilities.  Specifically, more than two-thirds of GNETS students are assigned to attend school in regional GNETS centers that exclusively serve students with disabilities in buildings that are often located far from students’ homes.  Other students are assigned to regional GNETS classrooms located within general school buildings, but often in separate wings or isolated sections of the buildings.

The complaint also alleges that many children in the GNETS Program are consigned to dilapidated buildings that were formerly used during segregation, or to classrooms that are locked and apart from mainstream classrooms, with substantially fewer opportunities of participating in extracurricular activities like music, art and sports.  Lack of access to a quality education and to extracurricular activities can have a profound impact on a student’s success in life.

NDRN applauds the Justice Department for seeking to end the unnecessary and harmful segregation of students with behavior-related disabilities in the state of Georgia.  As we know, educating students with disabilities with their peers who do not have disabilities benefits both groups of students.  NDRN sees this lawsuit as an important step forward towards fulfilling the critical mandates set forth in Title II of the ADA and a meaningful action that will help to ensure that all students with disabilities are educated in inclusive settings.

A link to the DOJ press release may be found here.

A link to the DOJ complaint may be found here.

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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.

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