House Bill 619, with a short name of “Generally language assessment laws for deaf and hard of hearing children,” was co-sponsored by Rep. Connie Keogh, D-Missoula, and implements language testing of deaf or partially deaf Montana students in both English and American Sign Language as well as requiring school districts report the results to the state and parents.

HB 619 establishes a temporary language development advisory committee that will work with Montana’s Office of Public Instruction and Department of Public Health and Human Services to create parent resources; language developmental milestones for both English and American Sign Language; and a list of appropriate language assessments for deaf or partially deaf children from birth to age 9 for both languages.

Furthermore, the bill not only requires schools to administer the tests, but also report the results.

Brandborg’s mother, Rita, said in an interview via ASL interpreter Dana Walls she is “looking forward to a better system.”

“It can be hard to know what these kids need,” Rita Brandborg said. “Down the road, we’ll be able to see the data and know what needs to be changed, which districts need more interpreters.”

She said she also hopes the bill and the extra attention it affords deaf students will help to better educate those involved in “mainstream schools” about the needs of those students.

Keogh said she sponsored the bill because she thought “it was a good one.” HB 619 passed through the Senate on a 50-0 vote, and Keogh said it benefited from bipartisan support.

Keogh said only about 5% of children born deaf are born to deaf parents.

The National Association of the Deaf reports 72% of parents with deaf children do not know sign language.

Click here