May 30, 2014

P.O. Box 1778
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-1776

Dear CEASD Board and Members,

The Deafhood Foundation believes the proposed partnership between CEASD and OPTION Schools (oral/aural) is ill-advised, an extreme move counter to CEASD’s mission, will harm Deaf children and it will perpetuate the cycle of denying economic and social justice for Deaf people. We believe that a partnership with OPTION Schools contradicts CEASD’s goals and detracts from CEASD’s vision of shaping educational policy and practice to ensure that all Deaf students achieve successful outcomes and are valued and fully participating members of society, including the global Deaf communities.

The Deafhood Foundation requests CEASD and its members to reconsider this partnership idea. Based on research and first hand experience, the Deafhood Foundation believes successful outcomes for all Deaf children must include the following:

  • High family involvement to learn and use ASL in the home immediately after the child is identified as Deaf so the child can produce higher language outcomes and healthy family relationships.
  • Bilingualism and bi-literacy, in at least ASL and English (reading and writing) and American Deaf culture and other cultures surrounding Deaf people, so Deaf children can achieve linguistic and educational benefits of learning both (and other) languages and learning about their cultures.
  • Recognize and raise awareness that being Deaf is not a medical event and that the optimal resolution is for society to respect and involve Deaf people as a diverse part of humanity.
  • Recognize the importance of Deaf-space audism-free, empowered classrooms that includes Bilingual (ASL/English literacy), Deaf Culture, Deaf role models, Deaf studies, Deaf history and arts, and use the reframing approach of Deaf-gain instead of hearing loss. This type of educational system strengthens and nurtures the Deaf children and parents.

It is important for the community to be aware that the Oberkotter Foundation has supported over 50 oral/aural schools for more than 20 years. However, Oberkotter Foundation altered their funding priorities to include birth-to-three years old early intervention programs by educating babies early in oral/aural methods. When the child becomes three years old, the OPTION Schools then present the parents with choices and parents usually prefer their child to remain “hearing-like/oral,” in spite of the research that indicates that the oral method is not a successful method of Deaf children learning.

This change is where OPTION Schools face new challenges. Public schools are now hiring their own Deaf/HH preschool teachers who use oral/aural method, theory, and philosophy. This has an affect on OPTION Schools’ enrollments and funding. To counter this problem, the OPTION Schools are now turning to Deaf schools, which are usually funded by the government, to become their partners.

In government funded Deaf schools, three-year-old preschool students enroll in Bilingual (ASL/English literacy) programs; however, some parents and OPTION Schools’ people are pushing these schools to provide auditory-oral methods. OPTION Schools claim that the Bilingual (ASL/English literacy) approach in the Deaf government schools cannot successfully teach Deaf children because these schools do not have Listening and Spoken Language/Auditory Verbal Therapy (LSL/AVT) licenses or that they cannot speak English clearly. Therefore, the Bilingual (ASL/English literacy) schools are strongly being encouraged to hire LSL/AVT licensed teachers and eventually eliminate Deaf teachers and Deaf staff and their bi-lingual programs. The moral metaphor is that OPTION Schools have been firing blanks at ASL and with the agreement in place; CEASD is giving them the bullets to finally kill ASL and successful Deaf students.

It is no longer justifiable and a grave injustice to continue advocating for auditory-oral approaches because history and research have identified tragic byproducts of language and cultural delays in too many Deaf children as the result of exclusionary clinical practices of programs or organizations with the mentality of OPTION Schools. CEASD partnering with OPTION Schools is a serious contradiction of what research has shown as an effective educational approach and CEASD’s mission. This partnership will likely repeat the infamous Milan incident of 1880 that divided Deaf education, the history and the lives of Deaf people.

Therefore, we believe that CEASD’s partnership with OPTION Schools is morally and ethically wrong.

We strongly urge CEASD to not partner with OPTION Schools, and instead request that OPTION Schools apologize for the harm that they have caused, discontinue their practice of using auditory- oral approaches, and adopt an ASL-English bilingual-bicultural philosophy for the welfare of all Deaf children.

Through a partnership with OPTION Schools, does CEASD want the responsibility of the second wave of the Milan Conference?

Marilyn Jean Smith, Organizing Chair

CC: Paddy Ladd, Ella Mae Lentz, Ritchie R. Bryant, Melvin Patterson, Terri Waddell-Motter, Kevin Clark,  Timothy B. Riker, Raja Rajeshwari, Judy Gough, Mel Carter, Butch Zein, Marvin Miller and the Deaf community