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Changes to program for deaf students anger parents

Local parents of deaf students say a decision made by the Medford School District will have negative effects on their children.

Posted: May 2, 2019 7:29 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Local parents of deaf students say a decision made by the Medford School District will have negative effects on their children. 

In February, Medford parents of the Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing received a letter from the district saying it is planning to shift the students who live in Medford back to the Medford School District.

For about 40 years, the Central Point School District has hosted the program, which pulls together a group of deaf and hard of hearing students. 

Medford parent Mike Neilitz's daughter is a kindergartener in the program. He said he's upset with the decision for several reasons, one of them being that the group of students in the program is a small one. There are only about 30 students in the program between kindergarten and 12th grade. 

"Why are we taking that small group of kids and splitting it apart?" Neilitz said. 

The letter sent by the district said the changes would take effect during the 2019-2020 school year. If a child is transitioning between schools (elementary to middle school or middle to high) that child would be transitioned to the program in the Medford School District. If a child is not transitioning between schools, they would have the option of staying at their current school through the highest grade. 

Neilitz said aside from the decision to split the students up, he and other parents are frustrated with how quickly the decision was made without involving the parents.

"It's been a top-down process, the school district has said here's what's best for you kids, we know what's best, we will tell you what's best for you child," Neilitz said. 

Neilitz said many parents want the district to wait a year before any decisions, and they want to be directly involved in it.

American Sign Language Professor at Southern Oregon University Steve Wasserman said he hopes it's not a decision being made by the district on the basis of money.

"What they don't realize is that it's going to be devastating for the deaf children," Wasserman said. "They need to have accessibility to language, and they need to have an opportunity to have peers and socialize together, that requires all the students being pulled together in one district."

The Medford School District told NewsWatch 12 it plans on sending out a letter to parents Friday to work toward better communication on any changes. 

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