Austine Closing Reveals Debate Over ‘Mainstreaming’ Deaf Students

Summarized by Hailey Scragg, staff writer

A group of Alumni from the Austine School for the Deaf want to reopen its doors as a state school and re-examine programs for deaf and hard of hearing children who have been ‘mainstreamed’ into public schools. James Tucker who experienced both, is one of these alumni who is currently superintendent of the Maryland School for the Deaf, and an influential advocate for the reopening of Austine. One of the biggest obstacles facing the reopening of Austine is the IDEA, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which jumpstarted the ‘mainstreaming’ of special needs students in public schools. While this law has been helpful to many, it has not necessarily benefited deaf children. Tucker states that “Deaf children need a community of learners where deaf children can communicate with other people who use sign language. That’s how learning happens.” Another problem they’re facing is the difference in enrollment at Austine between when it closed with 20 students, and in the 1970’s when there were 100. With new technology, including cochlear implants, being an option for public schooling, parents have more options when it comes to the education of their children. Nevertheless Tucker and his group of alumni believe that this new idea for a state run school will an asset for some deaf and hard of hearing students.

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