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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

New Law Aims to Improve Education for Students with Hearing Loss

Two new pieces of legislation were signed into law with the mission to improve education in New Jersey schools for children who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or deaf-blind. The legislation was signed by Acting Governor Sheila Oliver and passed the full Assembly in June by a vote of 77-0.

The first law created a Working Group on Deaf Education that will make recommendations for issues on early linguistic developments of children who are deaf or heard of hearing. This group within the Department of Education (DOE), would consist of 12 members appointed by the commissioner of education.

The law also directs the DOE to develop a parent resource guide to be used with deaf and hard of hearing kids from birth to age five. The resource guide will provide information that parents can use when advocating for their children and making decisions for the child's well-being.

The second law establishes the "Deaf Student's Bill of Rights" which requires school districts to recognize the rights of students who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind. These rights include being provided with individualized early intervention to support the acquisition of solid language bases developed at the earliest possible age, opportunities to meet with adult role models who are also deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind to learn advocacy skills and opportunities to meet with their peers in the classroom and during school-sponsored activities.

"Too often, our schools do not update their classrooms and lack the appropriate resources to support the communication needs of deaf or hard of hearing students," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington) in a press release. "As a result, these students fall behind not only in language development but other academic areas. This law will prioritize the language needs of deaf or hard of hearing children in order for them to grow both academically and socially at school."