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Deaf Education:  Equal Opportunity
Also See "Literacy (1)"
Also See "Literacy (3)"
Also See "Literacy (4)"
Also See "Literacy (5)"

Equal Opportunity Education
By Lynette Johnson

Public education for the deaf in the United States initially began with the opening of the American School for the Deaf in 1817. This was the first school for the deaf in the U.S. known as Gallaudet, and became a university in 1986.  Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, its founder, lived next door to a prominent surgeon whose daughter was deaf due to a high fever when she was a baby. As Gallaudet watched the young child playing and attempting to communicate with her siblings and neighborhood children one day he decided that deaf children could learn and that there should be a school for them. Gallaudet eventually turned to a French deaf school to instruct him in becoming a teacher to the deaf. When he returned to American he opened the American School for the Deaf in a hotel and it became the first school funded by the government, (ASD, 2005).

The Individual's With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997 is a law that insures that any child with a disability receives an education in the least restrictive environment possible. The problem with this law is that it doesn't take into account the communication needs of deaf children. In 1997 and 2004 amendments to IDEA took the communication needs of deaf children into account, and since 2005 a national agenda has been held for states interested in reforming educational needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the public school system.

 IDEA focuses on 5 strategic goals to help all students, not just those with disabilities, achieve success in school. Those five strategies are that 1) parents and babies have access to resources that they need early on. 2) Preschools will get toddlers with disabilities ready for elementary school. 3) Intervention for children with reading and/or behavioral problems. 4) Appropriate access to general education and 5) all students with disabilities will finish high school because they have historically dropped out at a higher rate than those with no disability (IDEA, 1997).

Since 1997 IDEA has been amended twice, and the U.S. Department of Education has published a guidance policy on how IDEA should be applied so that deaf and hard-of-hearing students would benefit from the Act. An education coalition was created in 2005 with numerous groups, parents, and organizations along with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) to "achieve a national agenda of educational equality for the deaf and hard-of-hearing" (NAD, 2005). The agenda would focus on communication strategies that would enhance their education.

Works Cited

"Advocacy Issues: Education." National Association of the Deaf. 26 Jan. 2002. 22 May 2002 <>. 


"Brief History of ASD." American School for the Deaf. 2005. American School for the Deaf. 28 May 2008 <>. 


Department of Education. 26 Aug. 2002. 28 May 2008 <>. 


"Timeline: History of Gallaudet and the Deaf." Gallaudet University Archives. 14 Sept. 2005. Gallaudet University. 28 May 2008 <>. 



Lynette Johnson writes:

I recently read a news paper article about a mother who had to fight to get translation services for her two high school children who are deaf. The school spent over $200,000 dollars fighting their case against the first student arguing that the cost for the interpreter would cost the district $60,000 a year. They also argued that the student was doing well academically and did not need the accommodations that the mother was fighting for. The student in turn argued that she could participate in class discussions if she was aware of what was being said in the class. Treating all students equal has long been a problem of public education.

It seems as though we have come a long way in improving the rights of individuals in this Country in a very short time. But in all actuality, we really have a long way to go. The idea that schools would spend more money to not educate a student than to educate them it clearly inappropriate and should never have happened.  A parent should not have to fight the school district to provide their offspring with a better education just because the child is doing well.  An interpreter would only have given the child the same advantage that every hearing child had in class.  I have to admit that I was shocked when I read testimonials of what parents are going through right now trying to get access for their children who are either deaf or hard of hearing. As stated in the beginning the public school system is designed for one type of student, and unfortunately most students don't fit into the mold designed by the educational system. Hopefully schools will continue to with IDEA and strive to make education achievable for all students.



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