Gwinnett ordered to give more instruction time in special ed program

Georgia’s largest school system must give federal education officials a a plan this week about how it will offer more instruction time to some students in a program to develop job skills for students with disabilities.

Gwinnett County made an agreemenet with the U.S. Education Department after a complaint filed in 2014. A federal investigation found that the school district gave students in its STRIVE program less instructional time — anywhere from 13 to 32 minutes per school day — than students in Gwinnett’s traditional schools.

Gwinnett agreed to provide all STRIVE students a plan by May 30 to make up the lost instruction time, 81 hours this summer, according to a resolution agreement reviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Gwinnett’s plan must also be sent to federal officials by June 1.

STRIVE, in Suwanee, provides vocational training for students making the transition from high school to adulthood.

Federal statistics show the unemployment rate for disabled people is more than twice the rate for those without a disability.

Torin Togut, an attorney based in Gwinnett who specializes in representing students with disabilities, said he was unfamiliar with the STRIVE situation, but believes most transitional programs statewide do not provide those young adults with the necessary skills to get jobs that pay well. Many, he said, wind up in more taxpayer-funded state programs.

“The child falls through the holes, so to speak,” Togut said. “Having the linkage to ensure there is a good transition is critical.”

STRIVE students visit two job sites during the week. STRIVE had about 115 students this school year, according to Gwinnett records.

Gwinnett officials said since the complaint, they have added 30 minutes a day of instruction time. District spokeswoman Sloan Roach said Gwinnett contacted 97 students and eight agreed to the school district’s plan to make for the lost hours this summer.

Federal officials warned in a December report of unspecified “appropriate action” if Gwinnett doesn’t comply with the agreement.