Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Place For State Schools

I recently read a comment on my blog supporting the closure of state schools for the deaf.

"Anonymous said...
I think the budget cuts are a gift that will allow us to make overdue changes in Deaf Schools. They say that you need a sense of urgency to create change and the budget cuts put pressure on and create that sense of urgency. I would advocate for closure of WSD and other schools for the deaf and a push toward integration of deaf children in the life of our public schools. Deaf schools are not the only places where competent signers are also caring teachers -- those individuals work in public and private schools for children at large. Public education is a fundamental issue of democracy and deaf children deserve it and have a right to it."

In theory this so great. If rural public schools had the qualified staff and critical mass to meet the needs of all deaf children it would make life much easier for families. If public schools in larger towns had the qualified interpreters and critical mass to support it's deaf students this would be ideal. It is my opinion directing children back to their local districts is not the answer.

So the topics I want to explore are qualified personnel and critical mass.

I was talking with a high school student and her mother last week. They expressed how it was hard to send her to the state school all week only to spend time together on the weekends. I asked why they didn't mainstream. I was told the interpreter she would get wasn't qualified.

The problem many rural and small towns have is even if they desire to educate deaf child who communicate with ASL they don't have the resources. You can't force interpreters to move to these locations. Children at the state school get direct instruction in ASL so there understanding of core content is clear. There is also access to a pool of interpreters for events outside of school because it is a hub of deaf culture.

Critical mass also plays a role. If there is one deaf child in the district it makes no sense to hire teachers with deaf education backgrounds. So it is left to the district teacher to figure it out maybe with support from an itinerant?

 I believe their are some children who would never meet another deaf person which could effect self esteem and social development. In an area with a concentration of signing   adults the parents are also supported by community.

My son mainstreamed for half days in elementary for 1 1/2 years. It didn't work socially because the district doesn't teach foreign language (ASL) until middle school. He now does fine because his hearing peers can communicate with him. We live close to the deaf school so we have access to qualified district employees and interpreters that can support his school.

Deaf children have the right to a free and appropriate education . They are also deserve the right to the least restrictive natural environment.

So those are just a few thoughts off the top of my head. I would welcome any opinions on this topic.


  1. life goes on, but more likely, people will just pack up and move to one of the popular deaf schools like Fremont as more state schools for the deaf are closing down, and these schools will be bigger and more popular than ever.

  2. Uh hearing parents will what? No early intervention, 98% of deaf kids mamas are hearing...... just saying........ move where? They will think......

  3. dunno but if they have to do the ASL, I guess that's how it goes. of course, there's always a self contained classes for the deaf. Back in the 1800's, there wasn't many deaf schools. deaf kids had to live in deaf schools. at least that's what my grandma's sisters had to do because there were no deaf schools around and their hearing parents did not want to move.

  4. btw, isn't there a law that suppose to preserve these type of school for the deaf? I thought there was, or maybe I'm thinking of Gally.

  5. I have to disagree with anonymous. I think if a state school closes down, we'll see more mainstreaming. We're already seeing more mainstreaming as it is, especially with new technology like CIs. And not all families would be willing to move and not all families have the knowledge and awareness to advocate for their children in a public school or a deaf school setting.

    Some mainstream schools with deaf programs are good. Some are terrible. It really depends on the school and the attitudes/philosophies of the teachers and staff there. I visited a school recently that made me cringe, and then I visited another school recently that actually seemed to be very good. There are also many cases where there is no deaf program and the child is the only deaf student in the school.

    Deaf schools now don't offer living at the school 24/7. In the schools that still have residential programs, the students stay Monday to Friday and then go home on weekends. And some schools only offer dorms to middle and high school students, and others not at all.

    I'm not sure about a law relating to deaf schools. Maybe you're thinking about the IDEA and least restrictive environment (LRE)? That law isn't specific to deaf schools and would not do much to save them.