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October 20, 2002

Mother unhappy with state's ruling, asking for another hearing

From: Richmond Palladium Item, IN
Oct. 20, 2002

By Pamela Isaacson

A case conference hearing for Bryant Robinson was held in February. The state hearing officer determined Richmond Community Schools was meeting Bryant's educational needs.

"A psychologist from (Indiana School for the Deaf) came and told them his language skills are far behind in ASL (American Sign Language)," his mother, Tammy Winget, said. "His skills are not at all where they should be."

Winget said she plans to ask for a second hearing but no date has been set.

Students who attend Indiana School for the Deaf must complete a six-part assessment that evaluates physical and academic abilities. Whether a student is home schooled or not, it's an ISD enrollment requirement that the student's regular school district approve the transfer.

"We believe in RCS that kids are better off in their own community, living and learning to be a member of society here," Lou Dickman, director of exceptional student education for RCS, said. "We know we're able to provide a free appropriate public education, probably beyond what a lot of school systems do. We believe keeping kids within our community is what's best for them in the long run."

Interpreters in RCS earn $14.68 per hour. There are three interpreters employed full time by RCS, and one part-time substitute, to accommodate the three RCS students who require an interpreter.

Richmond also has two full-time teachers certified by the state as teachers of the hearing impaired.

"We are very proud of our program," Dickman said. "We have (hearing impaired) students who have graduated and gone on to (higher education)."

There are 15 hearing impaired students in Richmond -- three of whom require sign language interpreters -- and three additional students who have another issue preventing them from learning, Dickman said.

She said efforts have been made to teach sign language to hearing students.

Dickman said Richmond High School is beginning a sign language club this year for students who are interested in learning it. Test Middle School was planning to begin a sign language club this year for Bryant, she said.

But Winget wants Bryant to obtain more than a seventh-grade education. She worries because he can't communicate with his classmates and directly with his teachers in the regular school.

"In a situation where you're different from everyone else, he knows he's never going to fit in with these kids," Winget said.

The assessment report, provided by Winget, recommends the RCS case conference committee consider Bryant's eligibility for a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder in addition to his consideration as a deaf student. Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication difficulties.

Although the report doesn't specifically recommend that Bryant attend the Indiana School for the Deaf, it states the following:

# "Although Bryant's expressive ASL skills are limited, this is his most accessible language. He would best acquire these skills through interactions with deaf peers and deaf adult role models where ASL is used as a dominant language.

# "His mastery of classifiers, signing-space, grammatical indicators, vocabulary, production and discourse could then be increased to expand his language base, both expressively and receptively.

# "This could best be achieved in an educational environment where Bryant has access to direct and incidental information, directions, discussions, group projects and social interactions through ASL."

Winget contends Bryant could acquire those and other skills by attending the Indiana School for the Deaf.

"(Richmond Community Schools) has to approve that he should go there," Winget said. "They're paying more for his interpreter than it would cost for ISD."

Copyright © 2002 Palladium-Item.