A little girl, Danica Lesko, in New Jersey two years ago during this time of the year had been told she can’t sign on the school bus. A couple days later, school officials backed out and decided that as long as she followed safety rules, she could sign. The school attorney, David Rubin had made a statement saying, “The Board is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to all students with disabilities, and is satisfied that there has been no violation of that policy in this case. The Board is also committed to assuring the safety of all students who travel on District buses, and will continue to take appropriate steps to accomplish that goal.”
After the news broke, the school district officials were “bombarded with calls and emails from people.” (ABC) with all the attention and negative publicity that the Branchburg school district was getting from news and radio shows, they were forced to “clarify” their intentions.
This situation is an example of community collaboration. The support didn’t necessarily have to come from people within our community but the Branchberg community. If something is widespread and bad enough publicity is shared, things can be changed quickly.
With Milan being an infamous historical mark of “slashing” sign language which in turn essentially killed Deaf education, this type of oppression is very common. There are many hearing parents that don’t want to allow their children to be involved within the community because they’re afraid their children will not be like them. What they don’t realize is that their child is not like them. Their child is Deaf. It has been proven that brain formation varies based on auditory exposure. It has also been proven that the brain forms based on type of language acquired over time.
It wasn’t until the 1980’s that activists rose for human rights within the community and pushed for language rights as well. With that in place, Milan is remembered as a “bitter symbol of the oppression of sign language.” (HandSpeak)
The biggest irony is that American Sign Language is constantly being given a bad name and yet it is one of the fastest growing “foreign languages” taught within schools. Why would it be okay for hearing people to learn our language but it’s not okay for children? With oppressive behavior by either family members, school officials, or community individuals being a common practice, children and young adults everywhere are facing frustration and lack of access to the world.