Justice Department: Georgia Puts Kids With Disabilities In Old Schools Used During Jim Crow

| by Michael Allen

Georgia has reportedly been placing thousands of students who have behavior problems and disabilities in old facilities, some of which were used to segregate black children during the Jim Crow era, which ended in 1965.

These allegations come from the U.S. Department of Justice in a letter to Georgia's Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

ProPublica notes that the Justice Department's investigation found students were placed into the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support system after only one incident or minor incidents. GNETS reportedly segregated the children in the substandard schools lacking playgrounds and teachers.

“School is like a prison where I am in the weird class,” an unidentified student told the Justice Department's investigators, notes the Southern Poverty Law Center.

A parent added, “It’s a warehouse for kids the school system doesn’t want or know how to deal with.”

In its letter, the Justice Department told the state of Georgia it is violating Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act by administering "the GNETS program in a manner that results in students with disabilities being unnecessarily segregated from their peers."

The Justice Department report found that some students with disabilities who attended mainstream schools had to enter schools through special entrances, even metal detectors.

The Justice Department also said that almost all of the 5,000 students in GNETS program ought to be integrated with students who do not have disabilities.

The Justice Department has threatened to sue the state of Georgia if it does not make changes.

In response to the letter, Deal's spokeswoman referred ProPublica to the state's Department of Education, which referred ProPublica to Olens' office.

After all of those referrals, Daryl Robinson, counsel to Olens' office, told ProPublica: "We don't have any comment at this time."

Leslie Lipson, an attorney with the Georgia Advocacy Office, told ProPublica:

"We have seen many, many clients whose behavior gets significantly worse in GNETS. We've seen kids who are significantly behind their peers for no other reason than lack of instruction. We've seen students who are great football players or involved in student government or band who are sent to GNETS and have no opportunities to be part of their community."

Sources: ProPublica (2),, Southern Poverty Law Center / Photo Credit: Office of the Governor Nathan Deal