This coming Friday, the Virginia House Education Committee will meet to vote on House Bill 1873 ( http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?171+sum+HB1873). The bill proposes state-funded oversight and monitoring of programs already paid for and monitored under IDEA by means of a new advisory committee and additional reporting requirements for school systems. The bill proposes that of the 13-member committee (made up professionals and parents), 7 members must use ASL and 7 must be deaf (not necessarily the same 7). This does not reflect the makeup of Virginia Schools’ deaf and hard-of hearing student and teacher/professional populations. In Fairfax County, fewer than 10% of the D/HoH students use sign language and fewer than 30% of the professionals are deaf.
HB 1873 is redundant, cost prohibitive, and non-representative of the affected population.
This bill has been proposed by the LEAD-K advocates, an organization of Deaf Culture adults (who gained publicity via the Nyle DiMarco Foundation) who believe that lack of Kindergarten-readiness can be resolved by requiring American Sign Language (ASL) for all preschool children with hearing loss.
As Cuers, we acknowledge what LEAD-K calls “an epidemic of language deprivation” and choose to combat it by providing access to the language of the home and school via Cued Speech and appropriate amplification. When access to complete English is available through Cued Speech, it is illogical to require hearing parents who don’t know ASL to learn a new language and attain the level of fluency needed to serve as language models for their children during the earliest critical language-learning years.
Please note that NVCSA is NOT opposed to use of “baby signs” to facilitate early communication or to older cuers learning ASL with friends or as a high school language option. What we oppose is a mandate to use ASL to build language with preschool children whose parents can provide English (the language of schools and standardized tests) through use of Cued Speech and auditory amplification. IDEA grants parents the right to choose their child’s mode of communication.