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Multiple Avenues for Deaf People|
There have been a few particular and egregious instances where the education and lives of Deaf children were uprooted because of a lack of Deaf cultural representation and advocacy. In these instances, the individual and collective needs of the Deaf children were not considered; instead, external audist agendas were foisted on the children’s educational trajectory, potentially throwing them off course educationally (and culturally) for life. This cannot and should not happen. Should a Deaf child be removed from a Deaf family, especially if this removal is temporary, there should be a Deaf advocate present to support and maintain the child’s cultural and linguistic needs as per his or her current IEP and Deaf family’s wishes. Furthermore, any policy considerations that would impact the options for educating Deaf students should include input that is representative of the Deaf community’s perspective.
C o n c l u s i o n
The current law responsible for ensuring the proper education of Deaf students—IDEA—is inherently in conflict with the educational needs of the Deaf child. The premise of LRE, by law, gives preference to and advocates for an educational placement that is the equivalent of isolation for the Deaf child—in a neighborhood school with his “nondisabled peers.” In the neighborhood school, and even, to some extent, in a magnet school with other Deaf children, the Deaf child experiences restricted access to the use of his natural language, ASL. In addition, she or he becomes schooled in a socially restricted environment, one that is counter to the historical tendencies of the Deaf community and the basic human need to interact with people with whom one can identify and relate, not to mention communicate, without restrictions.
Indeed, the authors have seen first-hand the negative effects of educational placement outside of the all-Deaf educational setting as a “first resort” and not a “last resort.” We have reported to you such effects and the impacts they have had on Deaf individuals and on the Deaf community as a whole. We are not saying that all deaf people belong in one place. Instead, we ask that the IEP teams truly consider all needs of the d/Deaf child, including linguistic, social, and cultural needs. Only in this way can they make an appropriate and fitting placement.
Although we feel that Deaf people do not fit under the category of “disabled,” as defined by the law, we do recognize that Deaf people need accommodations and support to prevent discrimination and to ensure appropriate educational placement. In addition, we recognize that our country and the lawmakers that represent us have a long way to go before they change current legislation so that the disability label is removed from Deaf people and our needs are still met. Therefore, we have proposed several specific mechanisms that consider the linguistic, social, and cultural needs of d/Deaf people and serve to empower individual students to decide how best to meet these needs.
4. Two particular instances come to mind: First, the removal of a Deaf child from his Deaf parents’ custody almost resulted in cochlear implantation at the request of a judge and against the biological parents’ wishes; second, the Nebraska School for the Deaf was closed by the State Department of Education with little to no consultation and input from the Deaf community. See McClellan (2002) and National Association of the Deaf (1998).