House Resolution #20 created a taskforce to examine better ways to help students in the state of Delaware who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind. At the June 17th meeting for the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC), Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director of Exceptional Children with the Delaware DOE gave a presentation on the DOE’s response to the task force. There was a lot of discussion about this resolution and what it means for deaf students in Delaware. Most services are currently provided by the Delaware School For The Deaf, based in Newark, DE in the Christina School District. Many people connected with the issue feel strongly that not all students statewide are being serviced properly by a school that services students that are predominantly in the northern part of the state. Delaware School for the Deaf does have itinerant services provided by DSD staff throughout the state, but the bulk of services are provided at the main school.
A lot of the controversy stems from the fact that infants and toddlers are covered by Delaware’s Part C program, the Child Development Watch (CDW). Since Delaware is what is called a “birth mandate” state, the local school district’s are responsible for providing development and educational services for these young individuals. CDW refers the child to the school district, and they then get support from a group called FACES (Family Advocacy and Child Educational Services), which provides advocacy, educational support, and pre-school transition services. The problem arose because the local school districts do not have the resources to provide individualized support due to a lack of expertise on students with deaf challenges. Since deaf children usually tend to have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), the schools could be out of compliance if they are not able to provide adequate services.
In addition, the Delaware School For The Deaf is part of the Christina school district. What happens when you have a large influx of non-Christina school district students attending the school? The person in charge of the school is also in charge of statewide services for deaf challenged students. For early year Child Find, no parent is going to allow a toddler to stay up there by themselves, so then a question of funding for parents presents an even more complicated issue. To further complicate the issues, the Delaware School For The Deaf only provides services to children in the Northern part of Delaware. This leaves parents with very hard choices in the Southern part of the state. There is a classroom with services for communication problems in the Indian River school district covering pre-school and elementary age children, but most children in the state receive support in the general classroom. These students frequently need sign language interpreters and hearing assistance technology, which costs a great deal of money and is currently handled by paraprofessionals, not teachers.
The task force, according to Mieczkowski with the Delaware DOE, consisted of 80% of those connected with the Delaware School For The Deaf. Eileen Reynolds, an advocate for a parent, spoke and stated there is a monopoly for deaf services through the Delaware School For The Deaf. She stated the school districts should have more say in providing services for the deaf and the way it is now is a “cultural threat to this disability”. Mieczkowski said 104 surveys were handed out prior to the creation of the task force, and 82 surveys were filled out by those affiliated with the school, including 35 students and 6 parents. Reynolds wants families to have an equal say in services and not just what is recommended by the School For The Deaf. As well, since the salaries of those who would be hired to provide services would not necessarily come from the DOE, there could be problems with salaries and the unions for the public school districts.
The GACEC unanimously passed a motion for the legislature to not take any action on the report from the task force until additional analysis could be done by the council. The GACEC was in the process of drafting a letter to them. They believe the issues are too complex at this time. As a result of these issues, House Resolution #42 was introduced today and passed by the House. Information on the new House Resolution can be found here: http://legis.delaware.gov/LIS/lis147.nsf/vwLegislation/HR+42/$file/legis.html?open
The new resolution, written by Quinton Johnson and Edward Osienski, severely limits the amount of representation from the Delaware School For The Deaf.
John Young, a member of the Christina School Board that has the Delaware School For The Deaf within it’s district, said “I am disappointed in lack of CSD representation by Christina School District as we are the administrative district.”
A link to the findings of the task force created as a result of House Resolution 20 can be found here: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CB0QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdehandsandvoices.yolasite.com%2Fresources%2FDelaware%2520Deaf%2520Education%2520Task%2520%2520Force%2520Report%2520FINAL%2520May%252029%25202014.pdf&ei=Ahe0U4O-PM2xyAT7t4KQAQ&usg=AFQjCNE78pGix4n17UquPQvPql2yRxWh7g&sig2=eK1J6V8P0UnGykPC5XhLPQ&bvm=bv.70138588,d.aWw