ASL University |
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
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.
"Advocacy Issues: Education."
National Association of the Deaf. 26 Jan. 2002. 22 May 2002 <http://www.nad.org/advocacyeducation>.
"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 <http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/Policy/IDEA/index.html>.
"Timeline: History of Gallaudet
and the Deaf." Gallaudet University Archives. 14 Sept.
University. 28 May 2008 <http://archives.gallaudet.edu/Timeline.htm>.
NOTES FROM THE AUTHOR
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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