Monday, January 08, 2007

Does anybody have an emergency kit to save deaf schools from closing?

After analyzing current blogs covering about our nationwide deaf schools, it has led me further to inquire whether or not we have an "emergency kit" that consists a thorough plan to follow an orderly fashion whenever the threat on closing any deaf school is announced. Based on what grounds should we use to defend the closings of deaf schools? So let's take a deep look at the studies and IDEA law to find some ways on how we can better shield deaf schools from being ousted by the state government, shall we? We are seeing more and more about the possibility of closing several schools for the deaf in the future (i.e. Idaho and Washington State). Take Washington School for the Deaf as an example. The decision to close the school has not come to a rush because of several reasons. The Colombia newspaper of Washington website mentioned that Annie Pennucci of the Institute for Public Policy, an author of the study, admitted that "just raising the possibility of closure is controversial. Because only about 2 percent of Washington students are blind or deaf, most local school districts have difficulty providing those students with broad educational options. That is why 46 states operate residential schools for the deaf and 40 states operate schools for the blind." While it looks like a small percentage, the report showed that in October 2003, there were just over a million (1,021,926) K-12 public school students in Washington so 2 percent of that is what? 20,438.52 deaf and blind students. Yet the local school district is still unable to meet their needs as the schools don't have appropriate resources. That's why it is so important to serve this population of deaf students who will benefit greatly from schools for the deaf especially when being immersed in ASL environment and use ASL as an instructional tool to teach English. Here is the excerpt David's comment from sonnyjames blog: Also Idaho legislative committee is trying to railroad the Deaf School out of existence, including this one absurd proposal to require all students have cochlear implants. (according to this source I was in contact with.) Hiring professional lobbyist to fight for you will not get anything. It’s the community that has to work together and go on direct offensive of contacting the reps and senators in their states. Utah has been doing this method with very high success rate of getting a lot done lately, ever since we learned how to do it ourselves. David, blogger - Deaf Schools United David made a point that the community would be best suited to have more power than the lobbyists wheras a great deal of pressure can be heavier to the lawmakers. We had done that as a united community for Gallaudet with a push so we need to continue the same for deaf schools. Actually I would still keep the lobbyists but always backed by deaf community united. Mishka Zena is focusing on deaf schools united knowing that the number of support is the key in this democratic country. The majority is supposed to rule thus the higher the number of support there is, the more likely it will be saved. With this new deaf blogoland concept, anything is possibe to get us to team up. Even there is a free petition online that the Idaho deaf leaders can develop for us to sign to give support, provide us a list of contact names of lawmakers that we can send letters to, and so forth. Nevertheless, we need a stronger leadership to get more members of deaf community from coast to coast to protect deaf schools. In this website, What does IDEA require related to the child’s placement? , it tells you what are several requirements: IDEA requires that students with disabilities be educated with students who do not have disabilities to the greatest extent possible. ++++This statement encourages inclusion whereas a wheelchaired student, blind student, autistic student and/or a deaf student sits next to students who are non-disabled. This is referred to as the "least restrictive environment (LRE)." ++++Perhaps for students who are hearing and disabed as they are able to communicate more effectively. But for the deaf, it is a different ballgame. What makes a LRE for a deaf student? Being in classes in front of the terp makes a LRE? Trying to follow one's conversation but pretending to understand it makes a LRE? This is a recommended link to read: http://www.deaflinx.com/DeafEd/options_place.html. It pointed out that deaf students "learning from social interaction is less likely to occur." We must challenge more to make this questionable for deaf students. The American Society for Deaf Children has been involved in advocating for designing provisions of the IDEA but it needs a much stronger current. Wouldn't it be nice if varied organizations serving for deaf students such as CED and DeafEd unite a bit more and have the Congress develop stronger provisions supporting deaf students' learning needs and exposing them enriched language (ASL/English) environment? It requires that removal of the child from the regular classroom occur only when education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. ++++ We know that an interpreter is considered a service and what happens when this service cannot be achieved satisfactorily? Perhaps change to another terp and what if it is oh here we go again? Imagine missing out on getting accurate information during invaluable instructional time. Now take a look at the quality of interpreters among mainstreaming schools. There are some great ones but mostly are not even that close to good. Do you know whether or not your state requires certified ASL interpreters in mainstreaming programs? New York doesn't require it yet. From what I had understood was that when Florida made this law along with Parental Choice and certified interpreters in mainstreaming schools effective, it caused the ever-increasing number of FSDB students. So is that the answer? I just called FSDB and the person was not in so I will follow up with this. Making a requirement of certified interpreters will be harder for mainstreaming programs leading them to send deaf students from school districts off to school for the deaf that is, causing the number going boom. Just come to think of it. A continuum of alternative placements must be available to meet the needs of children for special education and related services. +++++So this is a pointer! The way I interpret this is that no state should be allowed to close any schools for the deaf since it is considered an alternative placement (not that I agree for a deaf school to be called alternative but that's how it is to the eyes of the lawmakers). If a state attempts to close the school, the lobbyists and supporters should use this as a weapon of defense since it is unlawful not providing schools for the deaf as a part of the continuum of alternative programs. Coming from the source from Department of Education on IDEA for deaf students, it focuses on provisions serving the deaf. A bit off the point, I find it interesting that the way this department labels the deaf is only the deaf. No hard of hearing or hearing impaired. By definition, deaf includes them all knowing that there is a different degree of hearing or none. Also who wants to call ourselves hearing impaired? Impaired offers a negative definition as it said it is ill, make worse, weak, being less than perfect, functionally defective and what not. For those of you who use that term, just do me a favor and refrain from that HI word, ok!? Note: FAPE: Free Appropriate Public Education The provision from Department of Education said that any setting which does not meet the communication and related needs of a child who is deaf, and therefore does not allow for the provision of FAPE, cannot be considered the LRE for that child. The provision of FAPE is paramount, and the individual placement determination about LRE is to be considered within the context of FAPE. Oftenly, this has been ignored. Who really blows the whistle to say, "hey this deaf child is not meeting communication needs or having his communication needs met?" How can that be measured really? Within my 15 years of teaching experience, I have seen students coming from the mainstreamed blossomed that they realized they have missed a lot when growing up in the mainstreamed. It goes the same from my friends who discovered themselves in college. They had experienced struggling in such programs as a solitaire and were not immersed in a strong communication environment let alone ASL equipped. So let me tell you a bit about myself, I grew up in a mainstreaming environment as a solitaire from grades 2 to 9 without an interpreter (in 9th grade finally had a terp only for 2 core classes). I was fortunate that I grew up in a deaf family and had the opportunity to be exposed to an enriched deaf cultural experience so I didn't miss out. Right? Wrong! I missed out a lot in an educational-social environment that I tended to bury my head in the books to learn, or self-taught for that matter, when a dialogue swapped by the students and a teacher with vocals shooting across the classroom became meaningless to me. It was a disaster growing up in this social paradigm although the quality of education was fitting for me that I was able to challenge the work having the advantage of reading comprehension but it was the "hard" way. After completing 9th grade, I had it! So I enrolled in a school for the deaf. I became so grateful to have several deaf teachers who offered ASL/English instruction that blew my mind. You can say that plenty of the light bulbs were blinking all over in my head! Sad to say that today parents of young deaf children get their implants earlier than ever prompting them to think that the earlier exposure to inclusion is the way. Six out of my son's class were "implanted and transplanted" to an inclusive environment. I have tried everything in my power to counter-influence their decisions but they turned their heads in front of me and snatched their deaf youngsters to a hearing-hearing land saying it is for the best. So far what I have seen, they developed perhaps a better listening and speech skills but not necessarily a better reader or a writer. Nevertheless, the decision they made relating to inclusion placement tends to be fully backed by the Committee of Special Education. Who would in their right mind disagree with their decision knowing that it is considered a penny-saver keeping these deaf students in their school district? I have seen data showing the amount of money saved if placed in mainstreaming schools but I am questioning the reliance of the data. I found a website stating that an educational interpreter earns a median of $27,000 but that is only for 6.5 hrs a day and 170.5 work days. Some schools like here in NY lasts a bit more than 180 days and that there are summer schools so just do the math. The cost to run per student according to the executive summary from Washington State School for the Deaf is $32,000 in 2002. So to me it is pretty much even. Anyone want to carry on this "plateform" ? Like Emeril says, " Kick it up with a notch!" So let's BAM the lawmakers with these weapons to keep deaf schools open and preserve our history and language!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Barb

What we sorely need is a collective group of knowledgeable educators for the deaf who can work together in setting up a group to assist schools in trouble and educate not just the public, but also the legislators. I would be happy to join one. We also can use current laws and studies to assest the need for deaf schools.

Likewise, I'm also a solitarie and missed out so much before I entered Gallaudet and learned sign language.

mishkazena