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Federal Report Slams State's Program for Students with Behavioral Disabilities

Federal Report Slams State's Program for Students with Behavioral Disabilities

A newly released report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division revealed its findings from an investigation into Georgia's program for students with behavioral disabilities, the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS.) The report said GNETS was responsible for 'illegal segregation' of students with special needs in 'inferior facilities.'

GNETS is comprised of 24 different schools and was started in 1972 with the best intentions to help Georgia's children afflicted by emotional and behavioral disturbance.

Now, "according to the Department of Justice Report, the network...shunts children with the behavior problems off to the side, deprives them of educational opportunities other children have, and stigmatizes them," said Online Athens.

The report found the majority of the schools to be in poor condition and severely lacking the same amenities as general education schools; most of the schools were found to lack libraries, gyms, playgrounds, and even cafeterias.

There is also apparently no opportunity for children in the state program to participate in extracurricular activities including sports, club, or band, the report said according to Online Athens.

And in "some subjects, students in the GNETS schools don’t get real teachers, but must use computerized 'credit recovery programs,' which are meant to allow students to make up course credits after they’ve missed classes, federal investigators found."

The department concluded that most students in the GNETS program would be better in the general education system if provided with additional aid and support.

Instead, most students in GNETS do not ever return to the general education system, with a state audit finding that most students stayed an average of four years.

The state audit came five years ago when suspicion about the legitimacy of the program originally came into question.

"A state audit five years ago concluded there was little evidence the 24 schools...were doing what they were meant to do - help students through their problems, keep them on track in school and remove the stigma that often comes with being labeled behaviorally disabled," the article said.

GNETS currently treats 5,000 students. The federal inquiry will likely prompt long-term federal oversight and a forced increase in funding to change the services delivered through the program, said.

Read the full story here and comment with your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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