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Parents of disabled students suing Georgia in federal court

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — 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. The students are denied access to physical education, art, music, and extra-curricular activities, it 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.

The Washington, D.C.-based Bazelon Center is among several plaintiffs in the lawsuit, along with the Georgia Advocacy Office and other groups and law firms.

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