Olmstead Goes to School: How Georgia’s Segregation of Students with Behavioral Health Needs Violates the Americans with Disabilities Act

Streaming Media

Document Type



Fall 11-4-2015


In July 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a letter indicting the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic (GNETS) for segregating students with mental and behavioral needs from their typical peers and providing unequal facilities, resources and opportunities. The DOJ’s action was based in part on the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. L.C. and E.W., an Atlanta case that is often called the Brown v. Board of Education decision for people with disabilities. In Olmstead, the Court found that placing individuals in restrictive institutional settings when they could be served in integrated community-based settings with appropriate supports violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Our panelists will describe the historical background of the ADA and the current context of the Olmstead decision, which DOJ has made a priority. Then they will discuss the short and long-term negative impacts of excluding and segregating students in programs such as GNETS and next steps for the state to serve these students in inclusive settings and come into compliance with the ADA.