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March 5, 2004

Deaf children to stay at Sterling School

From: Peoria Journal Star - Peoria,IL,USA - Mar 5, 2004

Officials vote 4-3 to keep kids where they're at unless state determines otherwise

March 5, 2004


of the Journal Star

PEORIA - District 150 administrators will keep deaf and hearing-impaired children at Sterling School unless a state review determines they should be moved.

"Now we have no plans" to move the children, special education administrator Thom Simpson said Thursday. "We're waiting to see what happens. They will be right where they're at" next fall unless the state objects, he said.

A public forum on special education services, sponsored by the Illinois State Board of Education, takes place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Valeska Hinton Early Childhood Education Center, 800 W. Garrett Avenue. It is part of the state education board's compliance review process to be sure District 150 meets state and federal special education requirements.

That review could determine whether the hearing-impaired children remain at Sterling School.

The forum allows public comments on teaching children in the least restrictive environment and other aspects of special education programs.

District 150 officials last fall moved the program for hearing-impaired children from Sterling to Woodrow Wilson Primary School but moved it back to Sterling after parents protested.

The School Board's 4-3 vote to return the children to Sterling overruled District 150 administrators, who said they were preparing for the state review when they decided to move the children. They planned to use the space at Sterling for offices.

The district's last review was in 1996, when Sterling was found to be adequate. The most recent amendments to federal special education laws took place in 1997.

Since then, other school districts have been told to move students because they were not educating them in the least restrictive environment where they would encounter non-handicapped students, but the children were not deaf, state officials have said.

The $700,000 addition to Sterling was constructed in 1972 especially for hearing-impaired children, using state grants and tax funds earmarked for special education construction, according to Journal Star files and School Board records.

Malynda Smith, the parent of a deaf daughter in the Sterling program, last fall filed complaints with the U. S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights and the Illinois Human Rights Authority when her daughter was moved from Sterling.

"With her hearing problems, the quieter it is the better she will learn," Smith said Thursday.

The federal agency dropped the complaint because the state agency is investigating it, Smith said. She plans to speak at next week's forum.

Sally Monroe, who teaches deaf 5-year-olds at Sterling and has worked in the building for 30 years, said the "acoustic environment" in "this facility cannot be duplicated in other classrooms."

Integrating young deaf children with non-handicapped peers should take a back seat to teaching them speech and language, she said.

When the children were temporarily moved last fall, they did

not socialize with other children, she added."

Copyright © 2004, The Peoria Journal Star Inc., Peoria, Illinois U.S.A. All rights reserved.