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Sign language approved as a foreign language in N.J. high schools

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TRENTON — Taking sign language in high school will now count toward students’ foreign language requirements for graduation, under a new law signed Monday by Gov. Chris Christie.

The bill (S1760) requires high schools to let students fulfill their foreign language graduation requirement by taking sign language courses instead of spoken languages like Spanish or French.

According to the legislation, American Sign Language “shall be recognized as a world language for the purpose of meeting any state or local world language requirement for high school graduation.”

The state’s high school students are currently required to earn five world language credits — out of 120 total credits total — before they graduate. Students can bypass the requirement if they demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language.

The state Senate and Assembly 20 years ago passed a resolution urging school districts to count the study of American Sign Language as a foreign language credit. And the state Department of Education’s website lists sign language as an acceptable world language.

Christopher Baxter may be reached at cbaxter@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @cbaxter1. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.