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Federal Officials Seek to End Segregated Schools for Disabled Students

Posted by ROLAND REZNIK on September 07, 2016. 0 Comments

School districts within the United States have been segregating children with disabilities for centuries. After careful investigation, the Justice Department has discovered the state of Georgia has illegally segregated students through their GNETS program. Federal officials revealed disabled students had no contact at all with typically-developing children. Sadly, it was further discovered that disabled students were exposed to decrepit buildings on a daily basis and did not have access to science labs, libraries and other areas on campus.

In July 2015, the Justice Department notified Georgia’s state officials of the results of their investigation. Proposals and counterproposals have been swapped between federal officials and state officials. Federal and State attorneys have been involved in negotiations for eight months. According to Vanita Gupta, head of the department’s civil rights division, they are pursuing the U.S. claims in federal court to vindicate the rights of students affected by the program.

The United States Department of Justice has decided to file a lawsuit stating students assigned to the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support, also known as GNETS program, is violating student’s civil rights. Before the lawsuit was filed, research revealed that lawyers from both sides reviewed and considered six proposals but couldn’t come to an agreement.

Leslie Lipson, an attorney with the Georgia Advocacy Office stated, “Everyone involved was hoping there would at least be some points both parties would agree on.” Unfortunately, no agreements were reached.

During negotiations, federal officials were focused on the poor condition of the buildings the students were using. The conditions were so concerning state officials agreed and ordered a total of nine buildings to be closed down immediately. State officials said the action was a sign of their desire to enhance the educational experience of students assigned to the GNETS program.

The action was appreciated by federal officials. However, it did not address any of the segregation issues since the students were just transferred to other isolated buildings. Gupta stated, “These actions have made it clear the state of Georgia intends to continue the segregation of disabled students. This means the state will continue to operate and fund the statewide system. In addition, she said, “they have not convinced anyone their intentions are to achieve equality for disabled students.”

The Justice Department has brought civil rights cases against a variety of different states and has prevailed. It is rare for a state to win these types of cases. Most states in a similar situation were able to negotiate terms and arrive at a decision to settle.

Since the state of Georgia has failed in negotiations a total of $165,000 has already been paid to Atlanta-based attorneys. The lawsuit will continue which means the amount is going to increase rapidly. This money could have been used to make improvements to buildings and fund inventive solutions to ending the segregation.

Advocates and family members of students are eager to find a solution to the issue. The lawsuit is currently pending and a decision is expected to be reached by the end of 2016 or early 2017.


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