The U.S. Department of Justice says Georgia is illegally segregating children with disabilities in a state education program.
The department said students with behavioral disorders are kept in separate, inferior academic programs and miss out on extracurricular activities. In a 21-page letter given to Gov. Nathan Deal Wednesday, federal officials detailed the findings of an investigation into a state special education network, the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS).
“[S]tudents with disabilities who have been inappropriately segregated from their peers without disabilities also face tremendous ongoing harms,” the letter said.
In one school in the Flint, Georgia, area, students in the GNETS program were kept in a segregated wing of the high school and had separate bathrooms. Other schools were in poor-quality buildings that used to be schools for black students during segregation.
Officials found students with disabilities didn’t have the equal opportunities, or sometimes were denied, to be involved in electives and extracurricular activities.
“These children will never know what it’s like to participate in a team sport, never know what it’s like to participate in a club, because those are simply just not available,” said Craig Goodmark, an education law attorney in Atlanta who’s represented clients in similar situations.
If the state doesn’t make the needed changes, federal officials said they may take the matter to court. A spokesperson for Georgia’s Attorney General’s office said the office cannot comment because of the “pending nature” of the matter.