Up to 100 parents, speech therapists and counselors are expected to gather on Saturday in Port Allen for a first-of-its-kind summit on deaf education.

One of the aims is to strengthen a current “bill of rights” law for Louisiana’s roughly 2,000 deaf children who attend public schools, said Rana Ottallah, a parent who lives in Metairie and one of the organizers of the event.

The meeting will take place from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the West Baton Rouge Convention Center

The featured speaker is Beth Benedict, a professor with the Department of Communications Studies at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

Sessions will be held on early intervention, how deaf kids thrive, parent advocacy and other topics.

Melodie Sparks, director of a nonprofit group that works with the deaf community, said Louisiana was a trailblazer more than two decades ago in spelling out the rights of deaf children.

“It was unprecedented at the time,” Sparks said. “Few other states had it.”

But she said those protections approved in the early 1990s need to be strengthened and expanded to include the deaf and blind, not just the deaf and hard of hearing.

Louisiana has one of the largest such populations in the nation.

Ottallah said the law needs to be upgraded from one that spells out student rights to one that ensures school districts will provide them.

The 2015 legislative session starts on April 13.

Ottallah said she has contacted one state lawmaker about sponsoring the changes.

She said the legislator wants some consensus on the issue, and the support of the state Department of Education, before agreeing to sponsor the legislation.

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