STAUNTON, VA – Delegate Richard P. “Dickie” Bell (R-Staunton) announced today that Governor McDonnell has signed into law House Bill 1435, a bill patroned by Delegate Bell.
The signing ceremony took place at 3:30 pm on the front steps of Main Hall at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind on Monday, May 23, 2011.
House Bill 1435 requires local school divisions that choose to offer American Sign Language to offer it as a foreign language. It also requires public colleges and universities to recognize it to fulfill foreign language entrance requirements.
“I am very excited that the Governor has signed this important legislation into law.” said Delegate Bell. “I believe that this legislation will create a variety of new educational opportunities for both hearing and deaf students, and I’m glad that Governor McDonnell agrees.
Also present at the signing ceremony was Ms. Dawn Hitchens, an American Sign Language teacher at Loudon Valley High School, and a number of her students, and students, teachers, and faculty members of the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. The idea for this legislation originated in Ms. Hitchens’ classroom, and her students came to Richmond on two different occasions to testify before the House and Senate Committees.
“I am also very happy that Ms. Hitchens and her ASL students could be with us today” Bell added. “These students were instrumental in getting this legislation passed, and much of the credit should go to them. I feel honored to have been able to work with them, and I’m very happy that we were able to see positive results. I hope that this has been a great learning experience for them, as I know it has been for me.”
The bill was first referred to the Higher Education subcommittee, where it was reported out with a vote of 6-1. It then passed in the full Education Committee with a vote of 21-1. It passed on the floor of the House with a vote of 95-3. It was reported out of the Senate Committee on Education and Health with a vote of 11-4, and passed in the Senate with a vote of 34-6. It then received a few technical amendments from Governor McDonnell, and was passed again by both houses during the reconvened session. It will now go into effect on July 1, 2011.
Elected to the House of Delegates in 2009, Delegate Bell represents the 20th District, which includes Highland County, portions of Augusta and Rockingham Counties, and the City of Staunton.
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