Header, the Administration of the Honorable Lincoln C. Almond
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August 7, 1996


I am transmitting to the Secretary of State, with my signature, 96-H-8349, as amended, "An Act Relating to Education."

This legislation, designated as the "Rhode Island American Sign Language Instruction Act of 1996," seeks to enhance the status and recognition of American Sign Language as a linguistic system. The Act specifically provides for the development of an educational curriculum and teacher qualifications for the teaching of American Sign Language in the state* s elementary and secondary schools.

I support the intent and objective of this Act. American Sign Language has become the primary means of communication for the majority of members of the deaf and hard of hearing community. The study and learning of American Sign Language will serve to reduce communication barriers between hearing and deaf people and will better enable the deaf to participate fully in our community.

My support for this legislation however is qualified by certain assumptions and interpretations based on the language of the Act. First, it is my interpretation that this legislation does not impose a mandate on school districts to offer American Sign Language. The legislation does require that the same criteria used by school districts to determine the offering of language courses be applied to American Sign Language, as a language of equal status with French or Spanish. Second, the provision in section 16-25.4-3 that the "Department of Education shall incur all fees relating to sign language interpreters" presumably applies only to the development of the ASL curriculum and not to classroom instruction. Likewise, the provision in section 16-25.4-4 that the "Board of Governors shall incur all fees relating to sign language interpreters" is assumed to relate only to the development of teacher qualifications.

Finally, the references in the Act to the "department of education" and the "State Board of Education" are understood to refer to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The term "common schools" in the legislation is understood to refer to elementary and secondary schools.


Lincoln Almond