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June 7, 2004

Regents take comment on Deaf School issue

From: Aberdeen American News - Aberdeen,SD,USA - Jun 7, 2004

Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Parents of South Dakota School for the Deaf students who have cochlear implants told a Board of Regents group that they're pleased with education programs at the school and fear the state might close it.

Regents president Harvey Jewett of Aberdeen, regents Carol Pagones of Sioux Falls and Pat Lebrun of Rapid City, and board executive director Tad Perry met last week with eight parents and grandparents of children enrolled at the school.

Most of those children have cochlear implants, surgically implanted devices that artificially provide the sensation of hearing and which lead many users to develop speech.

The proliferation of cochlear implants in recent years has led to a conflict with proponents of deaf culture, who view deafness as an attribute, not a disability.

The primary means of communication in deaf culture is the manual signing of American Sign Language.

Friday's meeting followed an April 7 conference with proponents of the deaf culture and American Sign Language.

Some deaf-culture proponents fear the widespread promotion of cochlear implants by hearing parents of deaf children will overwhelm deaf culture and the use of ASL.

That concern led some parents at SDSD to call for the ouster of superintendent Jon Green in 2001. They argued he was emphasizing the school's cochlear implant program at the expense of ASL.

Parents of children with cochlear implants got their chance with the regents on Friday.

Far from criticizing SDSD, they extolled its education platform for students with cochlear implants, talked about their fears the state might close the school, and said they perceive disapproval by deaf culture proponents because they chose to give their children cochlear implants.

The parents and grandparents told the regents cochlear implants and the SDSD program helped hearing-impaired children make huge strides.

Green, the SDSD superintendent, attended the meeting and defended the use of cochlear implants by hearing parents to communicate with deaf children.

"A cochlear implant is the only way to inculcate your culture to your child," Green said. "It's not just mother and father bonding with a child, it's the cultural bonding you find so valuable."

The full board of regents plans more discussion of the issue June 23 in Vermillion.


Information from: Argus Leader,

© 2004 AP Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.