Priority Notice from the Maine Department of Education

New Policy Regarding Students Who Use American Sign Language

In previous years the Maine Department of Education has considered American Sign Language (ASL) to be a primary/home language other than English for the purposes of identification of students who are English learners (ELs).  However, in light of guidance published by the US Department of Education that has recently come to our attention, such students are no longer to be identified as ELs. Instead, they may be eligible for other types of support offered by their schools to aid them in improving their English language proficiency. Depending on each student’s profile, he/she may potentially qualify for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), a 504 Plan, Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS), or other supports.

To remove a student from EL status as a result of this change in policy, please submit a request for change in EL identification.  

This change in policy affects only ASL users who do not have an additional primary/home language other than English. Note that sign language users who are deaf or hard of hearing, or children of deaf adults, who also have a primary/home language other than English (such as Arabic, French, Somali, etc.) may continue to qualify as students who are ELs if they are not yet proficient in English.

To assist districts in sharing information about this change in policy with families, the Department has prepared a letter (Word). (This letter is in English only, as families with other primary/home languages are not expected to be affected by this policy change. Translations into other languages are available upon request).

If you have any questions about this notice or would like any assistance, please contact April Perkins at or (207)624-6627.