AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

AJC Watchdog: Warehousing students, state helicopter use, investor fraud

Busy weekend? Time to catch up on some of the great investigative reporting you might have missed.

Let's start with a project by investigative reporter Alan Judd that found black students in Georgia are overwhelmingly more likely to be shuttered away in special psychoeducational schools  for discipline problems.

Judd's reporting found students often are classified as having emotional and behavior disorders -- not a medical diagnosis -- but the state spends scant resources on psychological help for the children. Instead, these alternative schools are used to "warehouse" children, making reintegration into their home schools more difficult.

Read more on this vexing problem here.

Up in the air

While parents and schools are wrestling with how to treat students with special needs, State School Superintendent Richard Woods is flying around the state in a helicopter owned by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources .

Education reporter Ty Tagami found Woods spent 38 hours aloft in the state copter last year at a cost of $450 per hour. That much flight time put Woods just behind the state Department of Economic Development and Gov. Nathan Deal for most hours logged in a state helicopter .

Department of Education officials defended Woods travel schedule as the most efficient use of his time as he crisscrosses the state visiting schools. You can read more about Tagami's look at Woods' flights here.

Credit Nation update

A federal judge last week did something state regulators have been unable to accomplish when he issued an order shutting down Credit Nation, an investment plan federal authorities characterized as a Ponzi scheme.

Investigative reporter Johnny Edwards has been following developments with the company, headed by Woodstock millionaire Jim Torchia. Last week, Edwards reported that U.S. District Court Judge William S. Duffey Jr. in his order said Torchia misled investors and Credit Nation had huge operating losses and debt.

At stake is the life savings of investors, including many elderly investors who heard about Credit Nation on talk radio ads. Read more of Edwards' work here. 

Freedom of speech?

And don't forget to read the most recent AJC Watchdog column explaining the hurdles Stone Mountain Park faces as its seeks to limit future public demonstrations.

Last month, the park was the setting for yet another Confederate flag rally. This time, hundreds of protesters showed up to oppose a much smaller white supremacist gathering . The counter protesters clashed violently with police as park officials sought to keep the larger group away from the white supremacists.

Can the park limit such protests without violating the Constitution? Read more about that here.

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