For Immediate Release

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For Immediate Release

August 22, 2010

Since releasing a statement to the press about the closing of the Newfoundland School for the Deaf (NSD), I have tried to monitor comments made by the Minister of Education to the media. It is clear to me that the Minister is not well informed.

First, the Minister claims that new technology like cochlear implants have had a significant impact on enrollment at NSD. Cochlear implants have been available commercially since 1972. That was five years before the first personal computer (Commodore PET) became commercially available in 1977. Most of us would not think of technology introduced that long ago as new technology. Like the personal computer, cochlear implants have evolved and improved, but to claim they are "new technology" gives a different meaning to the word "new".

In Newfoundland, children travelled to Ontario for cochlear implants as far back as 1996, and in 1997 the Newfoundland School for the Deaf was offering specialized programming for students with cochlear implants which included on site Auditory Verbal Therapy and on site audiological services in the best classroom acoustic environment in Canada. The operation of that program was taken from the School for the Deaf by the Department of Education in 2001. Cochlear implants did not reduce enrollment, canceling the school's program did.

The Minister also claims that there was more demand for services in an integrated setting. The School for the Deaf initiated support for deaf and hard of hearing students to attend classes with their hearing peers when this was appropriate. This service started in 1976 and the School for the Deaf provided itinerant teachers, equipment, in-service training and audiological services to students attending schools on the Avalon Peninsula until the year 2000, when the department of education transferred these services to the school boards against the wishes of the school boards, the itinerant teachers and the School for the Deaf.

Also, during the period 1976-2000 the Newfoundland School for the Deaf evaluated and approved all proposals by school boards to offer services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for the Department of Education. This included identifying and assessing the needs of students, assisting boards in recruiting qualified teachers, providing and maintaining amplification equipment, providing in-service training to itinerant teachers, providing advice and consultation to school boards on development of their programs and providing in-service training to teachers in the regular school system who had deaf or hard of hearing students in their classrooms. it should be noted that NSD was the driving force in establishing itinerant services for Deaf and hard of hearing students in all areas of Newfoundland and Labrador. Consultations with and support for school board programming by the School for The Deaf was discontinued by the Department of Education in 2000 and services to School Boards were reduced.

Integrating Deaf and Hard of Hearing students when appropriate did not reduce the need for a School for the Deaf. Eliminating the historic role the school had in supporting school boards, itinerant teachers and deaf and hard of hearing students and making an integrated option the only available option did.

In 1978, the School for the Deaf took on the provision of services to parents of pre school children with hearing loss. This program, which was started as part of the Telemedicine project by Dr. Max House and Dr. Clare Neville-Smith had received international recognition. The Department of Education of the day, agreed with the proposal by Dr. Neville-Smith that the School for the Deaf should take over operation of this program. This was a province wide program, widely respected and along with the involvement in board operated programs for school age students enabled the School for the Deaf to be in constant touch with Health Professionals, Educators and Parents in every part of the province. This program was reduced drastically and then eliminated in 2003-2004. Removing the School for the Deaf from it's province wide responsibilities and presence in the Health and Educational system contributed more to it's demise than any "new technology".

Finally, the Minister has not denied that the Department of Education took the admission process (which had been the responsibility of the School for about 40 years) away from the School in 2003. The Minister claims that students were not denied admission in spite of evidence to the contrary. One wonders why else the Department would have removed this long standing authority from the School.

Charles Harkins


Newfoundland School for the Deaf (1978-2001)

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