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Starting in 1993, students in New York State may be able to earn second-language credit by studying American Sign Language.

The state board of regents is expected to approve a change in regulations at its December meeting that would include American Sign Language in the same category as such foreign languages as Spanish and French.

Under the proposal, school districts would be allowed to offer American Sign Language for credit starting in 1993, a]though some sign-language classes may be available next school year as part of a pilot project, according to Jackie Bumbalo, a spe- cial-education staff member in the New York Department of Education.

A similar proposal was turned down in 1984, but Ms. Bumbalo said efforts by the state's deaf community helped convince educators that American Sign Language is, in fact, a distinct language, not merely a manual representation of English.

Ten states have passed legislation recognizing American Sign Language as a language. . A national service organization launched a statewide volunteer initiative in Delaware last week, hoping to enlist every school in the state in a youth-service system.

The American Institute for Public Service, in conjunction with business, education, and social-service groups in the state, will recruit students from kindergarten to college in an effort that organizers say they hope will serve as a national model.

The organization hopes to establish a youth-service coordinator in each school, who will work with area social-services agencies to provide volunteer opportunities to every child who wishes to participate.

Unlike service proposals being considered in Maryland and New Jersey, school and student participation in the Delaware plan is voluntary, with no monetary incentives for participation, according to Drew Hastings, the program's director. Participants will be awarded certificates graded according to the number of hours of service performed.

Mr. Hastings said that 10 schools and 1 social-service agency had agreed to participate as of last week, before the project was officially launched. Rhode Island has expressed interest in adopting the model, he added.

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