Naomi Horton, the executive director of Hear Indiana, in interviews with the media about the Indiana School of the Deaf protests said, “The discussion right now is about parent choices.”
Supporters of Ms. Horton and the Hear Indiana organization has rallied around this position. Given how central the rights of parental choices are in education, it’s to be expected. However, there has been some who have drawn upon this position to argue that all publicly funded schools, such as the Indiana School of the Deaf, has to serve all communication modalities, in order to ensure choices for parents remain available.
Now, I didn’t particularly explore this issue in my ‘Death to Deafness’ series, because first and foremost, I am not an attorney, nor an expert on Special Education law. However, given the fact that ignorance is the the root of audism, something that is far too prevalent in the field of Deaf Education, I decided to consult someone who is an expert. Armed with facts and relevant opinions from experts, the foundation of ignorance can only but crumble away, making it difficult to perpetuate such bigotry and discrimination.
This expert whom I consulted with, authored a document that is widely considered as the bible on how the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA], applies to deaf and hard of hearing children.
Full disclosure: The expert that I am quoting here, also happens to be my mother.
And so, this is her opinion on this matter.
IDEA’s implementing regulations require at 34 CFR § 300.115: “Continuum of alternative placements:
(a) Each public agency must ensure that a continuum of alternative placements is available to meet the needs of children with disabilities for special education and related services.
(b) The continuum required in paragraph (a) of this section must—
(1) Include the alternative placements listed in the definition of special education under § 300.38 (instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions);” [Emphasis added.]
“Institutions” includes residential Schools for the Deaf, as does “special schools.” Most often, D/HH students are placed at schools for the deaf because they require placement in an environment that provides immersion in the language that is fully accessible to them. [Emphasis added.]
Congregation at such a special school provides the critical mass of ASL language users needed by their students. Oral children are immersed in English in their own homes and communities as well as the media, being that English, unlike ASL, is the language of American and Canadian communities.
Thus, unlike ASL using D/HH children, oral D/HH children do not need to congregate within a specially created community of users. Not all ASL using D/HH students need to be placed in a school for the deaf, particularly if they have sufficient access to other ASL users.
Language learning abilities and needs vary among children. What suffices for language learning for one child may be insufficient for another child. The schools for the deaf meet these language needs as well as the cultural needs of ASL using D/HH students.
The Policy Guidance for Deaf Students Education Services from the US Dept. of Education’s Office for Civil Rights informs us:
“. . . deafness often results in significant and unique educational needs for the individual child. The major barriers to learning associated with deafness relate to language and communication, which, in turn, profoundly affect most aspects of the educational process. . . .”
Compounding the manifest educational considerations, the communication nature of deafness is inherently isolating, with considerable effect on the interaction with peers and teachers that make up the educational process. This interaction, for the purpose of transmitting knowledge and developing the child’s self-esteem and identity, is dependent upon direct communication.
Yet, communication is the area most hampered between a deaf child and his or her hearing peers and teachers. Even the availability of interpreter services in the educational setting may not address deaf children’s needs for direct and meaningful communication with peers and teachers.
“. . . it is important that State and local education agencies, in developing an IEP for a child who is deaf, take into consideration such factors as:
- Communication needs and the child’s and family’s preferred mode of communication;
- Linguistic needs;
- Severity of hearing loss and potential for using residual hearing;
- Academic level; and
- Social, emotional, and cultural needs including opportunities for peer interactions and communication. [Emphasis added.]
. . . The Secretary is concerned that the least restrictive environment provisions of the IDEA and Section 504 are interpreted, incorrectly require the placement of some children who are deaf in programs that may not meet the individual student’s educational needs. [Emphasis added.]
Meeting the unique communication and related needs of a student who is deaf is a fundamental part of providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the child. Any setting, including a regular classroom, that prevents a child who is deaf from receiving an appropriate education that meets his or her needs including communication needs is not the LRE for that individual child.”
The communication and cultural needs of D/HH students who use ASL are substantially different than the communication and cultural needs of oral deaf students. Their needs for direct communication in their own language are at cross-purposes when provided in the same place. [Emphasis added.]
The schools for the Deaf were established to meet the unique needs of ASL using D/HH students who, unlike their hearing and oral deaf peers, cannot have their linguistic, cultural, social and direct communication needs met in the mainstream and in the general community.
Their right to continue to have their unique communication, linguistic, social and cultural needs met in the very institutions that were designed for them, must remain undisturbed.
Indeed… it is about parental choices – the lack of it. I think there is enough evidence now, to demonstrate that Hear Indiana and like-minded organizations does not truly care about parental choices, nor about what’s the best interest for deaf children on an individualized level.
If this information presented here isn’t enough, then consider this. The National Association of the Deaf recently discovered a substantial piece of information, which was then announced on their website:
… HEAR Indiana in a recent e-newsletter about the Indiana School for the Deaf Board appointments explains that the ISD budget has more than $18 million then asks its members, “Do you feel like local school districts should have a piece of the pie?”
Still think this is really about ensuring the availability of all parental choices?