One morning last spring, my classmates and I were handed a list of courses and a form to fill out. Choosing your schedule is always exciting given the prospect of new classes, new people, and maybe actually learning something interesting. As I skimmed through the long list of courses that I could take for sophomore year, one I had always wanted to take caught my eye: Sign language 1. I had been wanting to take it since eighth grade, but with the pressure to continue French, I had skipped it freshman year. I decided to go for it, and I put it down as my language for the upcoming year.
Come summer, I learned that I was not going to be able to take sign language this year. I was told that I wasn’t allowed to take the class, because it was for Special Education students only. This was surprising to me, as it had been offered to everyone for years.
I went to talk to the new ASL (American Sign Language) teacher, Jon Senzer, about the change. He was unaware that all students in sign language 1 were in the Special Ed program. Senzer expressed disappointment in the change, because ASL is recognized as a language credit in most colleges. He added that having non-deaf people learn ASL is vital. “We have many successful non-disabled people who are fluent in American Sign Language, and working in careers to assist deaf people, such as college professors, teachers, doctors, lawyers, interpreters, and the list goes on and on,” he said.
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Senzer. Limiting the sign language program to only Special Ed students creates a bigger gap between students with disabilities and students without. Sign language is a unique, interesting language that can be used with people across America. “I think that it’s really unfair that this year they changed it… for people with mental or physical disabilities because it’s a really interesting language that I feel like everyone should be able to be a part of,” says sophomore Athena Swiader. Swiader, a non-deaf student, took sign language 1 last year before the rule was implemented, and is currently taking sign language 2.
The Wilson administration declined to comment on this article. I hope that in the coming years Wilson rethinks this rule and allows all students to take sign language. I’m afraid this policy will push Special Ed and non-Special Ed students apart instead of bringing them together.
PHOTO BY MAYA EDWARDS