Did the National Association of the Deaf Cross a Line by Getting Involved in a Custody Battle

Edited at 8:16 AM PST:

In an earlier version of this article, it was stated that the motion for leave to file amicus curiae was thrown out. It has been corrected and rephrased to clarify that it was the appeal that was denied. 

"The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is the nation’s premier civil rights organization of, by and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America." is the beginning of the introduction for NAD, "THE" association of and for the deaf in America. NAD has a 3.4 million dollar revenue (reported in 2016). In 2017 they had a 1.9 million dollar budget for the advocacy segment including legal advocacy for the community.  The legal segment of NAD receives thousands and thousands of requests (roughly 15-20,000 a year) and are only able to do a small percentage of those requests.

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NAD decided that getting involved in a custody battle between Curtis Gerald Kuhn and Virginia Claire Kuhn (Rawlings) was the best use of their money and time rather than focusing on the bigger picture, Illinois School for the Deaf. ILSD is being called out because of their cued speech option at the school.

After the custody battle was complete and the father won, NAD filed the motion for leave to file amicus curiae (an impartial adviser) brief on the behalf of the mother who had lost custody of her children, Claire Rawlings. The basis of Ms. Rawlings’ argument in requesting an appeal to the custody case is that she believes that Illinois School for the Deaf educational system is failing her children. Ms. Rawlings wants to send her kids to Indiana School for the deaf because of their Bi-Bi system, but her ex-husband is refusing to send their kids there but rather wants to keep them at Illinois School for the Deaf. According to Ms. Rawlings in a vlog she made back in October of 2017, her ex-husband does not care about her children obtaining their native language, American Sign Language.

In the motion for leave to file amicus curiae, NAD had pointed out in this case that Illinois School for the Deaf had efforts to integrate Cued Speech in their teaching methods. It has also been reported that Illinois School for the Deaf incorporates Cued Speech but also allows parents to decide if they want their child to have a variety of options in their educational platform by incorporating the decision in the child’s IEP.

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  1. This is not a lawsuit or a legal matter, but rather a personal matter between two parents that disagree on how to educate their children.

  2. NAD advocating for the mother in this legal case, in a way is stepping on the father's right to choose what education options and methods he wants to present to his children.

  3. Spending money and energy on writing this letter conflicts with NAD's statement of focusing on cases that have a wider spread benefit to the community.

Our attorneys represent deaf and hard of hearing individuals in disability discrimination civil rights cases that are carefully selected to establish powerful legal principles of equality and equal access (also known as impact cases). The selected cases are those that present the best mixture of legal and factual issues, with the potential of having the widest possible impact and benefit for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
— NAD Law Advocacy Center "Legal Representation"

The question here is not about who is correct and who is incorrect in their parenting opinion, but rather the actions behind NAD. Did NAD do anything about the case after the proceedings? Some things they may have done would be to raise awareness in Illinois system or not? Did they take action to help reduce this kind of issue in the community?

Since NAD took the time to get involved Where was NAD when parental rights were threatened. Let's take the case in Idaho In August of 2009 during a custody trial, a man was found in contempt of court for not forcing his daughter to wear a cochlear implant against her will. Or when two children who were in the foster system and their mother still had rights to her children and yet the foster system was going to implant the children without the mother's permission.  

Regardless of the outcome of cases NAD chooses, the question here is what is the logic behind this and how do they really choose cases?  Is it because of the Kuhn family name that they chose to get involved, or do they really believe that fighting for one parent's right to ASL access against another parent's right to choose a different method of communication will help the community as a whole by testing their power by writing a letter to the judge, and had no impact, for the appeal was denied.

There is speculation by many people in the community that the National Association of the Deaf is being paid to stay quiet when large issues such as the Illinois School for the Deaf scenario. They receive 1.5 million dollars from the Department of Education for captioning. However, there is a good chunk of money of sponsorships that they did not individually report that could be particular organizations that are paying NAD to stay out of schools. Where were they when the situation at Pennsylvania School for the Deaf occurred, or where were they when Gallaudet University had their DPN2 protest? There is also a wake of superintendents being fired by their respective state Department of Education such as Arizona, Tennessee, and West Virginia; yet NAD is nowhere to be found.

So, in the end, does the name, National Association of the Deaf, not mean anything?