TRENTON, NJ – Legislation allowing American Sign Language (ASL), a complete, complex language that employs signs made with the hands and other movements, including facial expressions and postures of the body, to be used by New Jersey high school students to meet world language graduation requirements was signed into law on Monday.
The General Assembly approved the legislation, which was sponsored by Assemblywomen Mila Jasey (D-Essex/Morris) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), in June, 74-0.
"The West Orange school district will comply with the sign language law, should it become law," said Cynthia Cumming, spokesperson for West Orange public schools.
“Bilingualism and bimodalism are great cognitive boosters and have been shown to create better listeners and problem solvers,” said Jasey. “By encouraging the study of sign language, hopefully we can improve overall academic performances and create a more inclusive society for those struggling with hearing impairments.”
The new law (A-4212) stipulates that American Sign Language can be recognized as a world language for the purpose of meeting any state or local world language requirement for high school graduation.
“In the United States, American Sign Language is the primary language of an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 Americans and is said to be the fourth most commonly used language in the country,” said Vainieri Huttle. “This new law will help hearing impaired students meet their graduation requirements, and remove some of the stigma often associated with hearing loss by encouraging all students to learn ASL.”