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States That Recognize American Sign Language as a Foreign Language

 

The information on this page comes to you from the National Information Center on Deafness and is reprinted here with their permission. Listen Up would like to thank them for allowing us to make this information available to our guests. NICD is now Info To Go.


The following list identifies the status of American Sign Language as a foreign language in each state. In most cases, the description has been quoted from the legislation or developed from information provided by the state commission on deafness or a state-level office that serves deaf and hard of hearing people. Asterisks identify the 28 states with such legislation. Each law is different. In some states the legislation affects elementary through university-level offerings; in others, sign language may be offered only in secondary schools; in others elementary and secondary schools. In some cases, boards of education (state-or county-wide) or individual school districts have authority to approve credit for American Sign Language classes. Readers having specific questions regarding legislation must contact each state directly. This information is current as of June 1996.

Alabama American Sign Language as a foreign language has never been proposed to the state legislature. A draft bill has been prepared for introduction. American Sign Language is taught in several colleges and academic credit is granted. American Sign Language is taught in high schools on a limited basis.

Alaska* If a course in American Sign Language is offered, the course shall be given credit as a foreign language.

Arkansas A committee is in process of drafting a proposal. Sign language classes are taught on a state-wide basis to state employees and American Sign Language is taught in several colleges and given credit on a limited basis.

Arizona American Sign Language as a foreign language has never been proposed to the state legislature. The University of Arizona accepts American Sign Language for foreign language credit. Other postsecondary programs and high schools also accept American Sign Language for foreign language credit.

California* Effective July 1, 1988, high school students are required to complete a minimum number of courses in specified subjects in order to receive a high school diploma. This law provides that for the purposes of satisfying this requirement, a course in American Sign Language shall be deemed a course in foreign language.

Colorado On August 4, 2004 the Governor of the State of Colorado signed House Bill 04-1037, which allows higher education institutions and school districts to treat American Sign Language as a foreign language, and to grant academic credit for completion of ASL courses or demonstrated proficiency in ASL, to meet schools' foreign language requirements.  The ASL Law is available at http://www.leg.state.co.us/Clics2004a/csl.nsf

Connecticut* American Sign Language is offered as a language arts course, provided such subject matter is taught by a qualified instructor under the supervision of a teacher who holds a certificate issued by the State Board of Education.

Delaware American Sign Language as a foreign language has never been proposed to the state legislature. The University of Delaware offers American Sign Language as a foreign language and grants academic credit. Delaware Technical and Community College offers certificate and diploma programs in ASL.

Florida* Effective August 1, 1991, each student who is admitted to a state university must have completed two credits of sequential foreign language at the secondary level or the equivalent of such instruction at the postsecondary level. Students shall be exempt from the provisions of this subsection if they can demonstrate proficiency in American Sign Language equivalent to that of students who have completed two credits of such instruction in high school.

For the purposes of this section, American Sign Language constitutes a foreign language. Florida high schools may offer American Sign Language as a for-credit elective or as a substitute for any already authorized foreign language requirement.

Georgia* "A demonstrated proficiency in American Sign Language shall be accepted as a foreign language if it is determined that a deaf student has a hearing loss which significantly impacts upon the student's ability to learn a foreign language. The Individualized Education Plan Committee may then determine that American Sign Language can substitute for the foreign language requirements [two units] for the college preparatory seal of endorsement for a high school diploma.... " ASL may be accepted for one unit of elective credit or as the third unit (extra--not required) of foreign language credit for any other high school student.

Both houses of the Georgia State Legislature passed a resolution (March 17, 1993) that "urged [the Board of Regents] to consider the granting of foreign language credit to those students who demonstrate proficiency in American Sign Language." (This resolution is not a law, it's a suggestion.)

Update to NICD's info: Effective July 1 2007, The Georgia legislative body recognized ASL as a foreign language for any student rather than only the Deaf students. SB-170

Hawaii The State of Hawaii recognized sign language as a "language" a year ago, and the University of Hawaii at Kapiolani College (Gallaudet) offers credited courses.

Idaho American Sign Language as a foreign language has never been proposed to the state legislature. Some secondary schools recognize American Sign Language as a foreign language and offer academic credit.

Illinois* American Sign Language is recognized as a foreign language for high school credit. This allows up to 4 years of class credits, and one year of credit for demonstrated proficiency.

Indiana* American Sign Language is recognized as a standard, independent language. Schools may offer classes in American Sign Language as a first or second language for hearing, deaf or hard of hearing students and may award foreign language credit. State educational institutions may offer classes in ASL as a foreign language or part of another discipline and award credit for the courses to satisfy a requirement for the study of a foreign language or another discipline.

Iowa* A law enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Iowa stipulates that instruction in American Sign Language shall be in addition to and not in lieu of, provision of instruction in other foreign languages. Foreign language means spoken and written languages other than the English language, and includes American Sign Language. This relates to the teaching of American Sign Language in accredited schools.

Kansas* The state legislature passed a bill stating that American Sign Language is recognized by the state of Kansas as a language. The state board of education shall provide for the teaching of American Sign Language in accredited schools and all students whether hearing or hearing impaired may be given instruction in American Sign Language. Any state educational institution may offer an elective course in American Sign Language. Students enrolled at any of the state educational institutions which offer a course in American Sign Language may enroll in such course and with the concurrence of the state educational institution may count credit received for the course toward satisfaction of foreign language requirement of the institution.

Kentucky* If a course in American Sign Language is offered by a state university or community college, it shall be accepted as foreign language credit. Successful completion of any American Sign Language course in the common schools shall satisfy the foreign language entrance requirements for a state institution of higher education.

Louisiana* Any public high school shall offer instruction in a course in American Sign Language as an elective course provided a sufficient number of students desire to enroll in such course. Any public high school offering a course in American Sign Language shall provide instruction to any pupil wishing to participate in such course. The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education shall establish by rule criteria for each parish or city school board to determine whether a sufficient number of students desire a course in American Sign Language and shall develop appropriate procedures for submittal of such determinations by any parish or city school board wishing to offer such instruction. The board shall prescribe suitable teaching materials for the instruction and provide for teacher qualifications. American Sign Language shall mean a visual language which has emerged from the Deaf Culture and is composed of handshapes, movement, and body and facial expression, and possesses an identifiable syntax and grammar specific to visual languages which incorporates spatial relationships as a linguistic factor.

Maine* American Sign Language is the official state language of the deaf community. Each school administrative unit may offer American Sign Language as a foreign Language and offer credit at the elementary and secondary levels.

Maryland County boards of education in the State are authorized to give academic credit for the study of American Sign Language.

Massachusetts* In all public elementary and secondary schools, American Sign Language shall be recognized as a standard, independent language with its own grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and cultural heritage. Courses in American Sign Language may be taught for the purpose of contributing to a greater understanding of the social and cultural dimensions of the language, and to encourage and enable increased interaction between hearing persons and deaf and hard of hearing persons in society. School committees may credit such courses toward satisfaction of foreign language requirements.

Michigan* The board of a school district may grant high school credit in a foreign language to a pupil enrolled in high school who has satisfactorily completed a high school course offered in American Sign Language or who has attained proficiency in American Sign Language outside of a public or private high school curriculum.

Minnesota American Sign Language as a foreign language has never been proposed to the state legislature. However, some secondary and postsecondary programs recognize American Sign Language as a foreign language and grant academic credit.

Mississippi American Sign Language as a foreign language has never been proposed to the state legislature. However, some postsecondary programs offer American Sign Language for credit and some public high schools also offer ASL as a credit course (1 Carnegie unit).

Missouri A committee has begun discussions with the state department of elementary and secondary education regarding recognition of ASL as a language to meet foreign language requirements.

Montana* A joint resolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives urging the Board of Education and the Board of Public Education to recognize American Sign Language as a separate and complete language and to authorize teaching ASL as part of the public school and university system curriculum passed all committees involved in hearings during January and February of 1995. The resolution was adopted February 1, 1995.

Nebraska American Sign Language as a foreign language has never been proposed to the state legislature. Students may take American Sign Language at community colleges and postsecondary programs and receive credit.

Nevada Acceptance of American Sign Language as a foreign language has never been proposed to the state legislature. A task force, appointed to study the feasibility of establishing course work in ASL in secondary and post-secondary schools for credit as a foreign language and as a special course in elementary schools, will submit its report in late 1994.

New American Sign Language as a foreign language has never been proposed to the state Hampshire legislature. However, some high schools and colleges offer American Sign Language and give academic credit.

New Jersey* The New Jersey State Assembly and Senate passed resolutions in 1995 recognizing American Sign Language and Deaf Culture, and urging the State's institutions of higher education and local school districts to award foreign language credit for the completion of American Sign Language course. Senate Resolution (SR-80) passed 12 December 1995.

Assembly Resolution (AR-103) passed 2 May 1995.

New Mexico American Sign Language as a foreign language has never been proposed to the state legislature. When American Sign Language is offered at the university and postsecondary level, students receive academic credit.

New York* Elementary and secondary schools offer instruction in American Sign Language for second language credit. Students will earn credits to meet second language requirements upon graduation and higher education institutions will be encouraged to establish teacher training programs in American Sign Language.

North Carolina American Sign Language as an official language has not been proposed to the state legislature. Some secondary programs offer American Sign Language and grant academic credit.

North Dakota American Sign Language as a foreign language has never been proposed to the state legislature. However, American Sign Language is accepted as a foreign language state-wide and academic credit is given in school.

Ohio* American Sign Language is recognized as a foreign language, and any public or chartered non-public school may offer a course in American Sign Language. A student who successfully completes a course in American Sign Language is entitled to receive credit for that course toward satisfaction of a foreign language requirement of the public or chartered nonpublic school where the course is offered.

American Sign Language is hereby recognized as a foreign language, and any state institution of higher education may offer a course in American Sign Language. An undergraduate student who successfully completes a course in American Sign Language is entitled to receive credit for that course toward satisfaction of an undergraduate foreign language requirement of the state institution of higher education where the course is offered.

Oklahoma* American Sign Language is hereby recognized as a language and may be taught in the public schools of the state in educational programs for both hearing and deaf students. Academic credit will be granted for courses in American Sign Language.

Oregon The Oregon State Board of Education passed a recommendation to accept American Sign Language as a language in Oregon's public schools. Students in public schools will be able to take ASL classes and demonstrate competence, thereby completing the second language requirement for the Certificate of Mastery.

Pennsylvania A proposal is currently pending in the General Assembly of Pennsylvania. It states that: Every secondary school, both public and private, established and maintained in this Commonwealth may offer courses in sign language to all interested students to be taught as an elective course for credit.

Rhode Island American Sign Language is recognized by Rhode Island Public Law 96-151 signed on August 7, 1996 "...as a fully developed, autonomous, natural language with its own distinct grammar, syntax, vocabulary and cultural heritage." Students in elementary, secondary, and higher education systems will soon be able to use coursework in ASL as a credit toward satisfaction of a foreign language course requirement.

South Carolina has recently passed legislation that allows schools to offer ASL as a world language credit.

SECTION 59-17-130. American Sign Language course; development of teacher qualifications and academic standards; satisfaction of foreign language credit requirement. [SC ST SEC 59-17-130]

(A) The board of trustees of a school district may grant credit as a world language to a pupil who satisfactorily has completed a high school course in American Sign Language. Beginning with the 2008-2009 school year, American Sign Language awarded as a world language credit may be used to satisfy the foreign language credit requirement specified in Section 59-39-100.

South Dakota* American Sign Language is hereby recognized as a language. Any high school may offer American Sign Language as a for-credit elective pursuant to rules adopted by the State Board of Education. The teaching of American Sign Language is encouraged at the elementary level. Any postsecondary educational institution controlled by the State Board of Regents may offer an elective course in American Sign Language according to policy adopted by the Board of Regents.

Tennessee* American Sign Language is recognized as a language. Educational programs are encouraged to offer American Sign Language for academic credit.

Texas* American Sign Language is recognized as a language, and any public school may offer an elective course in American Sign Language. For the purpose of satisfying any requirement in the public schools for two units of study in another language, a course in American Sign Language may be deemed another language.

Utah* Senate Bill 42, passed in 1994, provides that American Sign Language shall be accorded equal status with other linguistic systems in the State's public and higher education systems; and directing the State Board of Education and the State Board of Regents to develop and implement policies and procedures for the teaching of American Sign Language in their respective states.

Vermont American Sign Language as a foreign language has been proposed but not passed. The proposal will be re-introduced in the next legislative session.

Virginia* House Joint Resolution No. 228 was agreed to by the 1996 Virginia General Assembly. The resolution requests public schools and public and private institutions of higher education in Virginia to recognize American Sign Language course work for foreign language credit.

Washington* Pursuant to any foreign language requirement established by the state board of education or a local school district, or both, for purposes of high school graduation, students who receive instruction in American Sign Language shall be considered to have satisfied the state or local school district foreign language graduation requirement. Minimum admission standards will be established for four-year institutions, including a requirement that coursework in American Sign Language shall satisfy any foreign language requirement the board or the institution may establish as a general undergraduate admissions requirement.

West Virginia* American Sign Language as a foreign language was proposed and passed during the Seventy-First legislature (1994). Fairmont State College offers American Sign Language for academic credit.

Wisconsin School boards in individual districts may grant foreign language credit to a pupil who successfully completes a course in American Sign Language.

Wyoming American Sign Language has never been proposed to the state legislature. The University of Wyoming offers American Sign Language for academic credit which fulfills the foreign language requirement and is also accepted by the Graduate School. At this time some community colleges offer ASL for credit but this does not fulfill the foreign language requirement. This may change within the next year.

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