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Survey for deaf and blind schools in Arkansas raises questions about a covert state purpose



Little Rock, Arkansas – Respondents to a survey that the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) distributed about the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Arkansas School for the Deaf are denouncing it as unfair and unjust because it was not formatted for the deaf or blind and did not include any audio or sign language videos.

In response to the survey, advocate Jeff Prail of the Arkansas Association of the Deaf wrote to Representative French Hill of Arkansas and Secretary of Education Jacob Oliva of Arkansas, among others.

Prail claims that worries about what the state might have planned for both schools are growing since there has been no contact from the state administration regarding the survey’s flaws.

The survey’s respondents cited several flaws, the most obvious of which is that it was improperly formatted for the deaf and blind communities it was meant to serve.

Prail questioned whether ADE complied with Americans with Disabilities Act Title 2 regulations in his scathing letter to the Education Secretary and others. He also claimed that the survey was purposefully released during the holiday break, when parents, students, and school staff would be less likely to see it until right before its January 5 deadline.

“And we are afraid that the state is up to something that we are unaware of,” Prail said.

Prail asked ADE to retake the survey with appropriate formatting for the deaf and blind groups, stating that the existing, “unjust” survey results should not be taken into consideration.

The results of the poll, according to ADE, will be given to the Board of Trustees of the schools at a future meeting.

In addition, Prail said he contacted Arkansas Policy Director Jack Sisson to arrange a town hall meeting with the local community, but he has not heard back.

The survey was conducted after lawmakers visited both schools recently and saw firsthand how much the state had neglected their infrastructure.

“It’s nice that we’re getting the attention that we’re needing now, yes, but it’s just that we feel that we need to be better informed that we have an understanding of what’s going on and what their plans are, what their vision is. And we have the right to know,” Prail said.

The community is worried that the state would try to close both schools and integrate their pupils into public schools, or it might even try to combine both into one building.

Survey-takers responded that both the aforementioned options would be a huge harm to blind or deaf students—the former generating an incongruent learning environment and the latter a great loss of the institutions, services, and resources focused towards educating kids with their special requirements.

An alumna and parent of two students at the School for the Deaf who completed the poll expressed disappointment with the survey’s clear implication that decisions about the schools’ future had already been taken.


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