NAD Continues Fight to Protect Schools for the Deaf
Hello, I am Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). This is my first vlog, and it is about a crisis currently facing our deaf children, schools for the deaf, and our language, American Sign Language. In February, the NAD sent out an action alert to the deaf and hard of hearing community including a vlog by NAD President Bobbie Beth Scoggins describing a crisis facing several schools for the deaf. In our action alert, we urged the community to be vigilant, and to be involved with their schools for the deaf and state associations. We also urged everyone to inform your legislators of the importance of these schools for the future of our deaf children. Schools continue to face threats, including closure, diminished funding, and hiring and appointments of individuals who do not value ASL as an educational means. ASL is the core value of the NAD and its members.
The NAD, through its board members and staff, has worked hard through many avenues to protect state schools for the deaf. The NAD supports state and local organizations organized to protect schools for the deaf. The NAD has developed position statements that describe the need for state schools for deaf and hard of hearing children and marshaled resources in support of these positions. The NAD has provided legal support, contacted legislators, appealed to media outlets, joined rallies, and mobilized the community via our communication channels and social media outlets. While NAD efforts have yielded some results, the threat persists and we must continue the fight. Please click on the links in my blog on the NAD website to view videos and resources about our efforts on behalf of state schools for the deaf. I will describe some of the more urgent situations facing schools for the deaf and NAD activities by our members, volunteers, and staff to protect schools for the deaf. The NAD needs all of you to assist in this effort and we must all be unified in this effort together.
NAD Board and staff representatives attended and supported rallies to preserve and protect the state schools for the deaf. NAD President Bobbie Beth Scoggins attended rallies in Oklahoma and Kansas. NAD Region I Board Member Sean Gerlis, NAD Civil Rights Chair Alexis Kashar and I attended a rally in support of 4201 schools in New York. The NAD has provided legal expertise and support for the lawyers who filed the lawsuit to keep South Dakota School for the Deaf open, and continue to monitor the appeal to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The NAD has also tweeted about challenges facing other schools that have deaf and hard of hearing programs such as the Utah School for the Deaf and Fargo High School in North Dakota. The NAD has also been corresponding with and providing support to various schools for the deaf and deaf programs about their situations.
On February 1, 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo of NY decided to try to change an old law that required the State of NY to pay directly to private state schools educating deaf students. The Governor wanted to stop directly funding state schools and pay school districts after the fact for funding placement of students at 4201 schools. This was a huge concern because many local school districts are facing big cuts and might choose to keep deaf students at their schools instead of sending them to a 4201 school. Those local school districts have no experience with deaf students and would not have been able to educate these students. The NAD worked closely with the Superintendents of the 4201 schools in New York, sent a letter to the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and sent a letter on behalf of NAD Celebrity Spokesperson Marlee Matlin to Governor Cuomo urging him to keep the 4201 system and preserve those schools. As previously stated, Gerlis, Kashar, and I attended the 4201 Rally to save the schools in Albany, NY on March 10, 2011. There was a large crowd with around 1,000 people. Several New York legislators attended and showed their support for our schools.
As a result of our collective efforts and the support received from legislators opposed to Governor Cuomo's budget, some (but not all) issues were resolved. 4201 schools and their authority to determine placements for deaf children are retained intact, but the funding would still go from the state to the school districts then to the 4201 schools. We remain concerned that the funding would flow through too slowly and the 4201 schools would have to close because of delayed funding. A blog by Alexis Kashar about this issue has been posted on the NAD website, "Did New York Schools for the Deaf Win or Lose?".
In April 2011, I sent a video to the “Deaf Schools in Crisis” Town Hall in the Bay Area of California, describing strategies to preserve state schools for the deaf.
In May 2011, the NAD responded to a crisis at Indiana School for the Deaf (ISD) by joining the local group that is collaborating to develop strategy that will push back against Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ appointment of two parents of deaf children out of four new appointees to the Indiana School for the Deaf Board. Those two parents do not have children who attend ISD and they have no connection to the school. According to the Indianapolis Star newspaper, one of these appointees is affiliated with Hear Indiana, a chapter of AGBell and is the parent of a mainstreamed deaf child. Another parent is the former director of the St. Joseph Institute, an Indianapolis school for preschool-age deaf children that focuses on speech and not ASL. He has a deaf son who is now mainstreamed.
Further, HEAR Indiana in a recent e-newsletter about the Indiana School for the Deaf Board appointments explains that the ISD budget has more than $18 million then asks its members, “Do you feel like local school districts should have a piece of the pie?”
Supporters of the Indiana School for the Deaf as well as NAD are concerned that these new Board members whose children do not attend ISD are more interested in diverting funds from ISD to mainstreaming programs than the betterment of ISD, as well as their interest in promoting listening and speech at the expense of American Sign Language in the educational programming at ISD.
This is a clear conflict of interest for those parents to sit on the ISD Board. The State already funds mainstreaming programs. The Governor should not have appointed parents who have no interest in investing in the future of ISD and its programs tailored specifically to deaf and hard of hearing children who use American Sign Language. The NAD is working closely with the Indiana Association of the Deaf (IAD) and the Parent Teachers Counselors Organization (PTCO) to find ways to rescind those appointments and ensure that the ISD board only