Many of you in the cueing community know about the furor over the Illinois School for the Deaf in Jacksonville, IL. For those of you who don’t, here’s a rundown: in 2011, the Illinois School for the Deaf started a pilot program that utilized Cued English in a bilingual program. Over the next two or so years, it expanded the program to other classes.
At some point last year, the school sent out a letter to parents that offered a Cued Speech track for interested parties. In part, this is where the confusion and controversy has been coming from. Some Deaf people have taken up arms against the use of Cued Speech in ISD; others worry that it’s being used to replace ASL.
A common allegation is that Cued Speech is being “forced” on students– in some cases, against their parents’ wills. The thing is, if you know anything about IEPs (Individualized Education Program), you know how unlikely that is. Each student’s IEP is determined based on what the parents choose, ideally with the kid’s input as well. The school cannot legally deviate from that IEP.
In other words, if the student’s IEP specifies that he be taught using ASL, then ASL is what he will (or should) get. Same for Cued Speech, Signed English, Visual Phonics, whatever. Schools are legally mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) to provide the best services that they can in order to provide an accessible education to their students. This IEP is revisited every year for every student and they can change it however they want, whenever they want. This is true of ISD as much as anybody else.
Of course, the law doesn’t always translate into reality, but with the increased publicity, ISD has a much greater incentive to be legally compliant. Trying to force students into Cued Speech (or any other method) doesn’t work out to their benefit in this case.