ASL Recognized as Foreign Language in Va. Schools

Virginia students will now be able to use courses in American Sign Language to fulfill a foreign language requirement, reports the Loudoun Times.

Students in an ASL class at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, Va., came up with the idea, and persuaded Va. Del Richard Bell to sponsor the bill.

That high school already classifies ASL as a part of its World Languages department, sharing space on the roster with other languages such as Spanish, Latin and Mandarin Chinese. Despite its name, American Sign Language differs from spoken English in several signficant ways, including noun/verb agreement, verb tense and its lack of articles (a, an and the).

“I think the most important thing about the bill’s passage is the fact that it improves access to higher education for a lot of people,”  Bell -- himself a former special education teacher -- told the Loudoun Times.

The bill, HB 1435, states that if a local school board offers an elective course in ASL, it must grant academic credit " on the same basis as the successful completion of a foreign language course."

The bill passed through the Virginia House in a 95-3 landslide and through the Senate with a 34-6 vote.

Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the bill Friday. It will take effect July 1.

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