Approved bill gives students foreign language credit for sign language courses

The Tennessee Legislature has passed a measure that allows high school students to take American Sign Language and get credit for their foreign language requirements, just as they would for Spanish or French,.

From a brief report by the AP.

Senator Becky Massey, a Republican from Knoxville who sponsored the Senate Bill (SB524), said Tennessee passed a law allowing kids to take ASL for credit back in the early `90s. But Massey said lawmakers never made sure it got implemented. She said the new bill assures that it will.

…Russell Rosen, an assistant professor at the College of Staten Island of the City University of New York, said more than 40 states have passed similar measures.

Note: The bill was sponsored by Rep. Roger Kane, R-Knoxville, in the House. It was approved unanimously in both chambers.

News release from Rep. Roger Kane

(NASHVILLE) — This week, Republican lawmakers passed legislation sponsored by State Representative Roger Kane (R-Knoxville) that allows American Sign Language to be used to satisfy foreign language requirements in Tennessee high schools.

House Bill 462, also known as the American Sign Language Bill, was initiated by Molly Ridgeway, a nonverbal student at Maryville College, and her boyfriend Joshua Anderson. It allows any high school student who enrolls in an American Sign Language course to use the credit they earn to satisfy foreign language requirements needed for graduation. Currently, more than 180 U.S. colleges and universities accept American Sign Language as a foreign language credit from incoming high school graduates.

“This legislation fulfills a long-standing promise that we as lawmakers made to members of the nonverbal community almost 30 years ago,” said Chairman Kane. “It also improves communication between verbal and nonverbal Tennesseans and could lead to job growth for future nonverbal educators.”

…Roger Kane serves as the Chairman of the House Education Instruction & Programs Subcommittee. He is also a member of the House Education Instruction & Programs Committee, as well as the House Education Administration & Planning Committee. Kane lives in Knoxville and represents House District 89, which includes part of Knox County.


4 Responses to Approved bill gives students foreign language credit for sign language courses

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    Michael Combs says:

    This bill is totally wrong by any standard and voters in Senator Massey’s district contacted her in that regard. But, perhaps because of her personal affiliations, she went ahead and pushed this bill. Sign language is beautiful, important, and a special way of communication. There is a strong element of emotion because it is a special group of hearing impaired that must “hear” via sign language and those with speech impairment that must communicate same. That is communication NOT the study of cultural languages that involve the structure of a language like French or Spanish. The only parallel between sign language and Spanish is emotion and Senator Massey used the emotion of the moment to push this through. The end result will be depriving Tennessee students of the important study of foreign languages.

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      Jill says:

      ASL does have its own structure. Its grammar is nothing like English AND the culture of the people who use this language is complex and not the same as hearing English users!!

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    Jill Payne says:

    I love this. I cannot tell you how wonderful this will be for my children who struggle with English anyway bc it has so many grammar rules they do not “get” do to their having Autism. Expressive language skills are already a struggle and adding a completely different language is so scary and especially making it a graduation required course. I am so glad they will hopefully have the opportunity to take ASL as their foreign language credit. I was also able to do the same in college and it did Not impact my cultural experience in any way as stated in the previous comment by Mr. combs. IN FACT, as I recall ASL is universal and as my cultural experience in two other countries in my college days would prove this to be true. When I was able to speak thru ASL with a child who did NOT speak English. It absolutely has NOTHING go do with emotion. Ms. Massey was definitely using a great eal of common sense when pushing this bill thru.

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    Rosie says:

    My freshman daughter is ecstatic about the passage of the sign language legislation! She sat through a semester of Spanish and complained frequently about not being interested in the language nor applying it to her future endeavors. Learning sign language, however, is her heart’s desire and perhaps she will use it realistically to communicate with people of all ages who are hearing impaired. Thank you!

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