TRENTON – Two bills sponsored by Senate Education Committee Vice Chair Shirley K. Turner and Chair M. Teresa Ruiz that would address the educational rights and needs of deaf students cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.
“Often times when a deaf child is born to hearing parents, they are at a loss for how to address their child’s disability,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “Creating a parent resource guide could help parents understand the needs of their children and the services available to them as well as helping them to navigate the deaf community.”
The first bill, S-2044, would require school districts to recognize the rights of students who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind by creating the “Deaf Student’s Bill of Rights.”
The bill specifies that the “Deaf Student’s Bill of Rights” would include rights for the students’ access to appropriate screening, assessment and early intervention, opportunities to associate with deaf adult role models as well as school peers and direct instruction or access to those fluent in the child’s mode of communication among other things.
“Our school environments need to be places where children can thrive and grow,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “It is extremely important that our schools are meeting the needs of all students. This legislation will help ensure that our school districts are providing deaf and hard of hearing students with the tools and resources necessary for them to succeed.”
The second bill, S-2045, would establish a Working Group on Deaf Education in the Department of Education (DOE) for the purpose of making recommendations on issues related to the early linguistic development of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The working group would consist of 12 members appointed by the Commissioner of Education whose duty would be to research and make recommendations to the DOE for development of a parent resource guide and early intervention assessments.
The bill would direct the DOE to publish the parent resource guide on its website. It would also require them to disseminate the selected assessments to school districts and to provide training and materials on their use. Data would be collected and reported annually by the DOE on the language acquisition and developmental progress of deaf or hard of hearing children from age two to five and by the Early Intervention Program in the Department of Health for infants and toddlers from birth to age two.
“Early intervention is important in ensuring that deaf and hearing impaired children are being taught a language that is accessible to them in a manner that is accessible to them,” said Senator Turner. “Many young deaf children are not being provided the same access to language in their daycares as their hearing peers.”
Currently 16 states have a “Deaf Student’s Bill of Rights,” California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, and Texas.
The bills were both approved by votes of 11-0, and next head to the full Senate for further consideration.