Times-News - Southern Idaho Local News
By JULIE WOOTTON
January 26, 2015
GOODING • Emma McLaughlin-Orton’s life has changed since she came to the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind.
“I can’t explain it. It’s way too cool.” The Couer d’Alene 12-year-old had struggled in school because of her hearing difficulties. But in her first year at ISDB, she’s discovered she enjoys math. “I was really surprised. I used to hate math.” A national debate rages over whether children who are blind/visually impaired or deaf/hard of hearing should stay in local schools or go to special campuses.
Some believe children gain more independence in a public school where they learn to fend for themselves. Others say special schools are optimal. “Specialized schools have been under fire in a number of ways,” said Brian Darcy, administrator of the state’s Gooding-based Idaho Educational Services for the Deaf and the Blind.
The question is: What’s least restrictive? ISDB is best for some, Darcy said.
Idaho’s services for deaf and blind students came under fire from 2006 through 2009. When employees and alumni celebrated the ISDB’s 100th year in 2006, they feared it would close. “This may be the last time that the alumni will have to visit the school,” alumna Janette Lancaster told the Times-News then. “The legislators have the opinion that it is better for the children to be in public schools, but I don’t think they realize what we do for the students here.” Lawmakers proposed closing Gooding’s campus, enrolling blind students in public schools and sending deaf students to five sites around Idaho.
It didn’t happen. Idaho Educational Services for the Deaf and the Blind reorganized in 2009 as a state agency instead of being under the state Board of Education.