Vainieri Huttle & Jasey Bill Allowing Sign Language to Fulfill High School World Language Requirement Gains Final Legislative OK

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Mila Jasey that would allow American Sign Language (ASL) to be used by New Jersey high school students to meet world language graduation requirements received final legislative approval 74-0 from the full Assembly on Thursday.

American Sign Language is a complete, complex language that employs signs made with the hands and other movements, including facial expressions and postures of the body. 

"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 (D-Bergen). "This can 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."

The bill (A-4212/S-1760) 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. 

"Bilingualism and bimodalism are great cognitive boosters and have been shown to create better listeners and problem solvers," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). "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 measure now heads to the governor's desk. It would take effect on July 1 of the first school year following enactment.