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Georgia illegally segregates students with disabilities, DOJ says

Georgia illegally segregates thousands of students with behavioral disorders in schools that often are dirty, in poor repair and, in some cases, once served as blacks-only facilities before court-ordered integration, the U.S. Department of Justice charged this week.

In a strongly worded letter to Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens, the DOJ said the state is “unnecessarily segregating students with disabilities from their peers.” Further, the letter said, those students receive inferior instruction and have few if any opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities.

“Students with disabilities who have been inappropriately segregated from their peers without disabilities also face tremendous ongoing harms: they may become victims of unwanted stigma and may be deprived of essential opportunities to learn and to develop skills enabling them to effectively engage with their peers in ways that teach them to participate in mainstream society as they mature into adulthood,” the DOJ said.

The department said the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support, which operates in 24 locations around the state, is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. If Georgia doesn’t make substantial changes, the department could take the state to court to force improvements.

Elam Alexander Academy in Macon is a GNETS school that serves Bibb, Houston, Peach, Jones, Monroe, Twiggs and Crawford counties.

State officials had no immediate response to the Justice Department.

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