Tuesday, January 1, 2008

National Bill of Rights for Deaf Children

Now as you know I grew up mainstreamed, oralized, and what have you not while yet I am deaf/hard of hearing. While I did graduate high school, I have always felt that my overall educational expierience could have been much better as a deaf student in a mainstream classroom.

When I started school I was provided with a few 'accomodations' if that is what you want to call it, but it was quite ineffective actually. I was placed in the front row where I could 'speech read' (reading lips for the ones not well versed in deaf culture) but only problem is the teacher would walk around the room or would face the board at such an angle that speech reading is actually quite useless. And what really annoyed me was when the teacher would stand next to the window where all I could see was her silhouette, no facial features. So in most cases all I would get was the 'WAH WHAH WAH' speech often mimicked in the Charlie Brown cartoons.

I was consistently having trouble 'listening' in the classroom and regularly received low marks for this and thus would get in trouble for it at home. (I am the only deaf child in a hearing family)

In the 1991-1992 school year I was given an FM system in which I would wear a set of headphones and my teacher would wear a microphone so whenever she spoke would receive the instruction into my headphones. In this year I reall excelled. And I was finally on the honor roll for having good grades all year long and was called up to the stage to receive my academic achievement award just as my brother had always done. I felt extremely proud of myself for the first time.

Then the other students were 'jealous' of my extra attention and thus the FM system was no longer utilized to ensure that I got an equal opportunity to an education just as my peers had. In the 1992-1993 school year I was failing so badly that I was boderline having to repeat the grade. I was simply not able to hear and I was missing out on ALOT of information. I was continually in trouble for poor grades. Of course I was just a kid, I knew I was trying but I just didnt understand why I was failing as badly as I was. Looking back now as an adult - it is very clear really. I was simply shortchanged on my education based on the feelings of my peers. This is in violation of so many ADA and Civil Rights laws alone. Im curious as to why my parents didnt fight back to ensure I received a fair education. I think it had alot to do with the fact that my dad was an educator in the same school system and felt that he might lose his job if did fight the school board on this.

But it has been many years since the actual incident and many years since I completed high school. In my overall educational experience I honestly feel that my alma mater failed me in so many ways. Not only was my education put on the back burner, my safety was as well but that is for an entirely different post at another time. Lets just say I was often the victim of bullying as well. I was not treated well as a student of the public school system despite me being the child of an educator that taught in this same system.

This clearly shows that the public school system is not adequately informed nor adequately equipped to provide a fair education to deaf and hard of hearing students. They are more concerned with standards and test scores that they let students lose out on a quality education and also losing those in the cracks. It is bad enough to know that many deaf/hard of hearing students have not completed high school nor have a GED, but to outright ignore them for the other students is absolutely ludicrous. According to ADA laws - ALL STUDENTS REGARDLESS OF DISABILITY IS ENTITLED TO A FAIR ACCESS TO QUALITY EDUCATION UNDER THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM. This isnt limited to just deaf/hard of hearing students, but those who are blind, physically disabled, and those who have learning disabilities such as dyslexia, and those who are mentally handicapped in some form such as Down's Syndrome.

The National Association for the Deaf has listed a Bill of Rights for Deaf Students/Children. Here is the original posting as found on the NAD site:

While Im disappointed that my state does not currently have a bill of rights implemented for deaf student I am however glad that we do have an Educational Task Force for the Deaf in our state.

I myself cannot change my own educational experience within the public school system, but I can however help push to change the experience of those who may be set up in similar circumstances that I was. 1.) Parents who were ill informed of the needs of deaf/hard of hearing child and 2.) Parents who were likely not aware of their rights to fight for a fair education for their child within the public school system. 3.) Not exposing their deaf/hard of hearing child to a deaf culture or at least considering a role model who was deaf/hard of hearing who understood the positions and points of view of the student and is better equipped to advocate the educational needs of the deaf/hard of hearing student.

Although I do not have the necessary educational credentials to enter the educational field of work, I will however seek to obtain those credentials and use my personal experience to help advocate for a fair education under a Bill of Rights for Deaf Children.