New bill proposed to offer ASL as option for high school language requirement

Students in Massachusetts may get a new option to meet their language requirement for high school graduation.
Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 6:18 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Students in Massachusetts may get a new option to meet their language requirement for high school graduation.

State Senator Jake Oliveira has proposed legislation to add American Sign Language, or ASL, as an option for the language requirement needed to graduate. He told Western Mass News that the unspoken language is seen as a useful tool in communicating with children and those on the autism spectrum.

“This is modeled on basically what we do in public higher education, where American sign language is recognized as a course to meet your language requirements at our public higher ed institutions,” Senator Oliveira said.

We spoke with Jamie Hills, a Chicopee High School parent, who told Western Mass News that she would welcome ASL into the curriculum. She even said that her daughter is interested in learning.

“I think it’s a great idea. I think any other form of communication is great for kids to learn,” Hills said. “They took away a lot of things like, for example, cursive writing. So, I think they should be learning this, especially with my daughter. She’s fifteen and she’s actually really interested in this.”

Senator Oliveira added that sign language would also help a new generation fill jobs that require sign language proficiency, something the senator said is much needed in the Bay State.

“So, looking at the need for getting employees that understand American Sign Language and that are interested in it and that provide an alternative, it is something we’re hearing from folks on the ground,” Senator Oliveira told us.

He added that including this course as an option for kids can open up new doors for employment down the line and new economic opportunities for Massachusetts.

“It’s another tool in our toolbox to provide another course to students for credit, to be used as their graduation requirement, and hopefully provide a pathway for future employment if they want to go down the road of pursuing a career in American Sign Language,” Senator Oliveira said.

He told us that the bill is still in its early stages and will be presented before the education committee as soon as a hearing date is set.