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Senate passes legislation allowing sign language classes to count toward high school graduation

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Photo by SuperTalk Mississippi News

The Mississippi Senate has passed a bill to allow sign language to count as a foreign language credit within the state’s public school system.

Senate Bill 2339, authored by Republican Sen. Angela Hill, would require the State Board of Education to develop a curriculum in which sign language can count as a foreign language credit to go toward high school graduation.

“There are some of our schools that already offer sign language as an elective. What this bill would do would allow them to develop the curriculum and offer that sign language to take the place of their foreign language credit,” Democratic Sen. Rod Hickman said after presenting the bill on the floor.

Statistically, Mississippi is behind in the realm of sign language with its number of certified American sign language interpreters standing at 22. That’s in comparison to neighboring states such as Arkansas (55), Louisiana (70), Alabama (113), and Tennessee (22).

Ronda Bryan, an ASL instructor at Ole Miss, said in a recent interview that sign language is an incredible skill to have and could result in more jobs in Mississippi.

“I think the very basic human level just being able to have more acceptable environments connect deaf people to their communities,” Bryan said. “We need interpreters so that those people have access to education and healthcare and employment and legal proceedings and on and on.”

SB 2339 passed the Senate 50-0 and will now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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