Par­ents sue state in fed­eral court

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - REGION -

ATLANTA — Ge­or­gia schools have put thou­sands of chil­dren into a sep­a­rate pro­gram and failed to give them an ad­e­quate ed­u­ca­tion, par­ents of dis­abled stu­dents and a group of ad­vo­cates say in a law­suit filed this week.

The Ge­or­gia Ad­vo­cacy Of­fice and other groups filed the fed­eral law­suit in the North­ern Dis­trict of Ge­or­gia.

The com­plaint al­leges that the stu­dents have been seg­re­gated into a pro­gram known as the Ge­or­gia Net­work for Ed­u­ca­tional and Ther­a­peu­tic Sup­port, or GNETS.

Ge­or­gia De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion spokes­woman Meghan Frick de­clined to com­ment Thurs­day.

Ge­or­gia is vi­o­lat­ing the Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act, the par­ents and ad­vo­cacy groups main­tain. The act re­quires dis­abled stu­dents to re­ceive the same level of ed­u­ca­tion as other chil­dren.

The GNETS pro­grams are “a relic of a time where peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties were thought to be un­e­d­u­ca­ble,” Ruby Moore, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ge­or­gia Ad­vo­cacy Of­fice, said in a state­ment.

The pro­grams are housed in sep­a­rate build­ings or wings of neigh­bor­hood schools for stu­dents who need ser­vices for their dis­abil­ity-re­lated be­hav­iors, the state­ment said.

GNETS “has be­come a dump­ing ground for stu­dents whom lo­cal school dis­tricts do not want to ed­u­cate,” Ira Burnim, le­gal di­rec­tor of the Bazelon Cen­ter for Men­tal Health Law, said in a state­ment.

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