Students who are deaf or hard of hearing often struggle to develop language, so state lawmakers are considering a bill that would require districts to collect and share data on their language abilities.
It's said that language is the foundation of all other learning, but students who are deaf or hard of hearing often fall behind their peers, and then learning other things takes longer. The reasons why are complex and varied, but lawmakers seem poised to take a step forward to fix it.
Speaking to the General Assembly's Education Committee through an American Sign Language interpreter, June Freeman said many students end up trying to learn sign language after years of failing in public schools, struggling to talk.
"Language deprivation is still happening, and it continues even today," Freeman said.
The bill would require districts to develop a language and communication plan for any child identified with a hearing disability. This plan would include information on the child's mode of communication -- speaking or signing, the amount of social time with peers, a list of educational options and the relevant teacher qualifications.
There would also be a framework set up to help districts create an intervention program if a student falls behind with language.
Additionally, districts would be required to develop emergency plans for deaf and hard of hearing students, something parent Susan Yankee said is badly needed.
"Deafness is an invisible disability," Yankee said. "And administrators and teachers often forget that students with hearing loss have inadequate access to basic safety measures. How can I send my son to school every day, knowing that he might not hear an emergency announcement, or an officer telling him to stand down?"
She suggested that schools and emergency personnel learn some basic signs to use in those situations. The bill has yet to be voted on by the Education Committee.