November 25 2017
Parents and Advocates filed suit in federal court October 11, 2017. The lawsuit, was filed by parents of children with disabilities, the Georgia Advocacy Office, the Center for Public Representation, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Arc, DLA Piper LLP and the Goodmark Law Firm. The class action lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges that the state of Georgia, in denying GNETS students the opportunity to be educated with their non-disabled peers in neighborhood schools, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. For more information about the litigation, please visit www.centerforpublicrep.org/court_case/gao-v-georgia/
The Georgia Department of Education hosted four public hearings to collect comments on the proposed revisions to the GNETS (Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support) rule. Public comments were accepted at the hearings and by email to GNETrule@doe.k12.ga.us. The deadline for written comments was April 14, 2017.
Buford Middle School Auditorium – 2700 Robert Bell Parkway, Buford, GA 30518
Dublin High School Auditorium – 1127 Hillcrest Parkway, Dublin, GA 31201
Thomas County Schools Professional Learning Center – 200 North Pinetree Blvd, Thomasville, GA 31792
Twin Towers East State Board of Education Room 2070 – 205 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive SE, Atlanta, GA 30334
We are a broad coalition of disability, educational, mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice, civil rights and parent and youth advocacy groups from across the state who have joined together around our shared concerns about the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Supports (GNETS) program.
1) It is a statewide program that segregates students based on their behavior-related disabilities.
2) The program is usually housed in separate buildings, but can also be in a separate area in a traditional neighborhood school.
3) GNETS only serves students with disabilities deemed to have an Emotional and Behavioral Disorder (EBD) eligibility.
4) GNETS are different from alternative schools as they are only for students with disabilities.
5) Students at GNETS range from 3-22 years of age.
6) Currently the 24 GNETS serve around 5,000 students with behavior-related disabilities and autism spectrum disorders.
For the past forty years, students in Georgia needing behavioral, mental health or other therapeutic services have been placed at the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Supports (GNETS) formerly known as Georgia’s “Psycho-educational Centers”. In 1970, the Rutland Center was established in Athens as the first GNET center. Currently there are 24 GNETS programs throughout Georgia.
In July 2015, the U.S. government determined that the GNETS program illegally segregates students with disabilities. The report also stated that this was in violation of Title II of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Summary of the Findings
1) Georgia unnecessarily and illegally segregates students with behavior-related disabilities through its GNETS program.
2) A majority of the students in GNETS programs spend their entire school day including meals, only with other students with disabilities in the Program. They have little to no opportunity to interact with their peers outside the GNETS program.
3)The existence of the GNETS program has prevented the schools from providing supports within the traditional school. GNETS enable school districts to segregate students instead of serving them appropriately.
4) Georgia does not provide teachers in general education schools with training to enable them to effectively support students with behavior-related disabilities in an integrated setting.
5) Many special education teachers also do not have any training on how to serve students with behavior-related disabilities.
6) Students in GNETS have an exit criteria developed that triggers transition back to traditional school. Most exit criteria were vague and contained higher standards of behavior than general education schools.
7) Most students at GNETS make no progress on their behavioral goals. Without appropriate behavioral supports, the students’ behaviors increase rather than decrease. Most students never reach their exit criteria and remain at GNETS for several years.
8) Once students enter a GNET, they become “stuck” in the program. A 2010 Georgia Audit found the average time spent at a GNET for a student was 4 years.
9) Most students in GNETS programs can be served in more integrated settings
10) Students who are in GNETS programs do not have the same opportunities to participate in elective courses and/or other extracurricular activities as their peers.
In addition to Parent to Parent, Who Can I Contact for More Information?
PARENTS AND ADVOCATES SUE STATE OF GEORGIA,
OVER SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL EDUCATION FOR
THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES