State officials had no immediate response to the Justice Department.
The schools attracted attention several years ago after a 13-year-old Hall County boy hanged himself in an isolation room at a GNETS facility in Gainesville.
As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in 2009, Jonathan King had been placed in a locked, windowless room, with no food or water, and with no one directly observing him, despite his previous threats of suicide. School personnel allowed the boy to take a section of multicolored rope into the room, which he used to hang himself.
Documents later showed that the boy had been placed in seclusion 19 times over 29 days in the fall of 2004. His confinements averaged 94 minutes.
The Justice Department did not address seclusion, restraint or other questionable behavior-control tactics used at GNETS schools. However, it described multiple cases of segregation that prevented disabled students from interacting with others.
At a school in Cordele, students with behavioral disorders must use segregated restrooms. They have separate lunch periods. They have to enter through a special door and, unlike their peers without disabilities, pass through a metal detector.
In Rome, students in the GNETS program aren’t allowed to engage with other students – or even leave the basement.
“School,” one student said, “is like prison where I am in the weird class.”