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Deaf UWM Professor Helped Shape Education Laws for Students with Disabilities

by: Kathy Quirk

Amy June Rowley vividly remembers her parents’ fight to assure her education. “There were often observers in my classrooms, and I kept having all these tests,” says Rowley, who carefully shapes her words and thoughts into graceful expression with flying hands and quickly changing facial expressions.
Amy Rowley.jpg

Rowley, who is deaf, is a clinical assistant professor and coordinator of the American Sign Language (ASL) Program at the UWM School of Education. In 1982, when she was 10 years old, she was at the center of a landmark Supreme Court case on the rights of children with special needs, Hendrick Hudson Board of Education vs. Rowley.

The case tested existing laws about how far public schools had to go to educate students with disabilities. Clifford and Nancy Rowley were relying on those laws when they requested a sign language interpreter for their daughter when she started kindergarten at their local public school in upstate New York.

Issues first raised in the Rowley case continue to play out in schools and courtrooms today, particularly in light of the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, says Dave Edyburn, UWM professor of education, who has organized a conference on the legacy of the Rowley case to be held March 21-23 in Milwaukee.

The entire Rowley family will participate in the conference, “Rethinking the Rowley Case: The 25th Anniversary of the Supreme Court Decision,” along with attorneys, special-education advocates and academics. …

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