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Turner, Ruiz Bills to Support Educational Needs of Deaf Students Clear Senate

TRENTON – Two bills sponsored by Senate Education Committee Vice Chair Shirley K. Turner and Chair M. Teresa Ruiz, which would address the educational rights and needs of deaf students, cleared the Senate today.

“Often times hearing parents are at a loss for how to best address their deaf child’s disability,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “A parent resource guide would help parents better grasp the needs of their children and the services available to them. It would also help introduce parents to the deaf community which can provide support and guidance for deaf children and their loved ones.”

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 the “Deaf Student’s Bill of Rights” would include rights for the students’ access to appropriate screening, assessment and early intervention. It would also include the students’ right to have opportunities to associate with deaf adult role models as well as school peers. Among other things, the bill of rights would include a students’ right to direct instruction from or access to those fluent in the child’s main mode of communication.

“Our schools must provide children with environments in which they can grow and thrive,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “It is extremely important that our classrooms are meeting the needs of all students. This legislation will help ensure that our 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 for addressing the early linguistic development of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.  The working group would consist of 12 members tasked with researching and making recommendations to the DOE for the development of early intervention assessments and a parent resource guide.

The bill would direct the DOE and the Early Intervention Program in the Department of Health to develop guidance regarding early intervention assessments for school. Data would be collected and reported annually by the DOE and the Early Intervention Program on the language acquisition and developmental progress of deaf or hard of hearing children from age two to five. The Early Intervention Program would collect the same date for infants and toddlers from birth to age two.

“Early intervention is crucial 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 unanimously.