Oliver signs legislation to assist students, hard-of-hearing community

Acting Gov. Sheila Oliver signed Senate Bills 2044 and 2045 into law, establishing a “Deaf Student’s Bill of Rights” and a Working Group on Deaf Education.

Additionally, the legislation requires the Department of Education to develop a parent resource guide for both the Department of Education and Department of Health to collect and report data for children who are deaf, or hard-of-hearing children.

Judy Persichilli speaks at a press conference in Ewing on June 25, 2019 after being officially nominated by Gov. Phil Murphy to serve as New Jersey’s health commissioner. – DANIEL J. MUNOZ

“Early identification of hearing loss and timely enrollment in culturally sensitive early intervention services can make a lifetime of difference in the education of a child with hearing loss,” said Acting Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “The Department of Health’s Early Intervention Program provides infants and toddlers up to age three with an individualized service plan that may include instruction in the use of American Sign Language, speech therapy, and other developmental tools that will help Deaf and hard of hearing students succeed in attaining the highest level language skills throughout their lifetime.

“The Department of Health works with health care providers to ensure children with later onset hearing loss are identified and collaborates with the Department of Education to ensure children over age 3 receive appropriate services,” Persichilli added.

S2044 creates a Deaf Student’s Bill of Rights requiring schools districts to provide:

  • Access to appropriate screening and assessment of hearing and vision capabilities and communication and language needs, and the continuation of screening and evaluation services throughout the educational experience;
  • Access to individualized and appropriate early intervention to support the acquisition of solid language bases;
  • Information to the families of students on placement considerations and available educational options;
  • Opportunities to meet and associate with adult role models who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind and who utilize varied communication modalities;
  • Opportunities to meet and associate with their peers in the school environment and during school-sponsored activities;
  • A placement that is best suited to the student’s individual needs including, but not limited to, social, emotional, communication and cultural needs;
  • Individual consideration for free, appropriate education across a continuum of placement options required by law;
  • Full support services provided by qualified and certified professionals in their educational settings;
  • Information to families from appropriately qualified and certified professionals on the medical, ethical, cultural and linguistic issues of the deaf community;
  • Access to mental health services and supporting services from qualified and certified providers fluent in the student’s primary mode of communication, including American Sign Language.

“The Deaf Student’s Bill of Rights requires that school districts recognize the right of each student who is deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind to receive the supports and services necessary for full access to communication and a world-class education,” said Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet.

S2045 establishes a Working Group on Deaf Education, within the Department of Education, which will make recommendations on issues related to the early linguistic development of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The working group will be required to issue a report including recommendations one year after the group is organized.

“Access to early intervention supports and ongoing services throughout the lives of children who are deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind can make a significant difference by developing strong language and literacy skills that will help them succeed,” said Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. “With these bill signings, New Jersey is making clear that we support building strong futures for deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind children.”

The bill further requires the Department of Education to work with the Department of Health to create a parent resource guide for parents of deaf and hard of hearing children. In addition, the legislation requires both DOE and DOH to develop guidance on early intervention assessments and to communicate this guidance to school districts. The legislation also requires the DOE and DOH to collect and publicly report data on the language acquisition and developmental progress of children up to age five who are deaf or hard of hearing, on an annual basis.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver before Gov. Murphy’s first State of the State address at the Statehouse in Trenton.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver before Gov. Murphy’s first State of the State address at the Statehouse in Trenton. – AARON HOUSTON

“To ensure that every deaf student in New Jersey acquires the same high-quality education as other students, I am proudly signing these two bills today establishing a Deaf Student’s Bill of Rights along with other initiatives for research, advocacy, and parental guidance,” said Oliver, who serves as commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “Gov. Murphy and I believe that every child has the ability to excel, no matter what their challenges may be. We will work to help deaf students overcome their challenges by providing the resources and support they need to succeed in the classroom and in life.”

Primary sponsors of S2044 include Sens. Shirley Turner, D-15th District; Teresa Ruiz, D-29th District; and Assemblymembers Daniel Benson, D-14th District; Annette Quijano, D-20th District; and Pamela Lampitt, D-6th District.

Primary sponsors of S2045 include Sens. Turner and Ruiz, and Assemblymembers Benson, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, D-31st District; Raj Mukherji, D-33rd District, Ralph Caputo; D-28th District; and Mila Jasey, D-27th District.

Anthony Vecchione
Anthony Vecchione covers health care for NJBIZ. You can contact him at: Avecchione@njbiz.com.

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