In response to an investigative report in the Argus Leader alleging that South Dakota has ignored the needs of deaf children in the educational system, two new bills intending to address the issues have been introduced by legislators, according to a recent article in the same paper.

State Representative Erin Healy, D-Sioux Falls, sponsored House Bill 1228, which modifies the age range for South Dakota’s Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K) Law‘s language and developmental literacy milestones from birth to age 5 to birth to age 21, regardless if the child receives special education or related services.

LEAD-K has a controversial history and is part of a national effort that its proponents say will ensure children with hearing impairments have strong language skills when they start school. However, the bill became something of a flashpoint among those who are deaf and hard of hearing, particularly at the state advocacy level, with the AG Bell initially opposing the original language of the bill and then reconciling after language was introduced that endorsing parent(s) rights to select the language they want (ASL, English, or both) for their child.

Senate Bill 117 would mandate that the state’s Department of Education create certain programs for deaf and hard-of-hearing children under the 1993 Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights. According to the article, the law currently reads that the department “may establish a program and policy to be disseminated to all school districts and other local educational agencies which promote the education of deaf and hard of hearing children.” The word “may” would be modified to “shall,” acknowledging that communication is “the most basic of human needs.”

To read the article in its entirety, please click here.

Source: Argus Leader