It's starting to seem like things just aren't meant to be easy for the three of us :-)
I know that in the recent past I’ve indicated that we were so impressed by this school district that we felt we had a tough choice to make. After writing that post, I decided to consult with my online contacts about the nature of interpreting for preschoolers and the fact is, it’s nearly impossible to do. The crux of the issue is that it’s too abstract for children this young to understand that an interpreter is speaking for someone else. Not to mention that a young child needs to learn their primary language directly, rather than through a third-party like an interpreter. To top it off, after doing some research and emailing back and forth with an interpreter, I realized that their code of ethics expressly forbids them from teaching or even clarifying information. They are strictly there to interpret and that’s it. That obviously doesn’t work for a young child in an educational setting does it? Having this information suddenly made the decision a no brainer for us.
Honestly, this public school district has blown our minds with their level of professionalism, their competence, and their genuine desire to meet Ethan's needs. They are offering an interesting idea that they've never offered before, so Ethan would be trying and testing their concept for the first time. They want to put an aide in the room that is not only a licensed teacher, but also a licensed interpreter. It gets a little fuzzy here as we try to nail down the language describing her actual role in the classroom and even the administrator present during the IEP meeting was looking for clarification on this point. Basically, she’d be Ethan’s aide and would teach him sign language but she would also teach the other children and she would be there as a resource for his main teacher who happens to have a solid foundation for sign (on a preschooler level) but is by no means fluent. It sounds great in theory, but when you get to the nuts and bolts of the situation it becomes less and less appealing.
The law says that the IEP team must consider direct communication between teacher and student and peers. That is part of "least restrictive environment". We think the “least restrictive environment” for Ethan is to be in a deaf school where he has access to direct communication in his primary language with all the staff and students. The public school cannot match this and we feel it's his right to have that access as a deaf child, and that the law very clearly illustrates that point. I even used the language of the law (taken from IDEA, the section on educating deaf children) while making our points during the meeting, but they disagreed with us and felt that they had all their bases covered. It takes some serious confidence to disagree with the law!
Our next step is to file an appeal, which in Ohio means writing a letter to the superintendent to get him/her to review the case and hopefully change the decision in our favor. If that fails, then we go into mediation with the district. We would likely take an advocate who knows the law as it pertains to educating deaf children. If that fails, then we go to due process and have to hire a lawyer and go to court. We’re trying to remain very optimistic that it doesn’t come to that.