Wednesday, August 17, 2011

West Virginia deaf teen denied interpreter for school


CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In just two days, students in Kanawha County will head back to school, but one student still isn't sure which school she'll be attending or if she'll be going at all.

Ariel Depp, 16, is deaf, but that doesn't keep her from wanting the same things as every other high school student.

“I can't play basketball, I can't be on the band team, I can't be on the student council or anything like that because we don't have a car,” Ariel said. “We're too poor to afford one.”

The services Ariel needs are only provided at Capital High School, but her commute is a four-hour ordeal -- two hours on a bus to school and two hours back. That wouldn't be the case if she could attend a different school.

Geographically, the only thing standing between Ariel and South Charleston High School (pictured) is a baseball field, but the Kanawha County Board of Education says distance isn't the issue.

“It would be virtually impossible to provide every service for every need in every school. It just can't happen,” Superintendent Ronald Duerring said.

Duerring says there are more than 5,000 special education students in the county. Therefore, special programs have to be clustered into a select few schools.

The board refused Ariel's request for an interpreter at South Charleston High because there aren't enough of them to spread throughout the county. That leaves her and her parents in a tough situation.

“We will not let Ariel go back to Capital High School because of the issues with the bullying and the transportation problems,” her father Paul Depp said.

“I failed two classes in the last two years of my freshman and sophomore year because I couldn't go to after school tutoring,” Ariel said.

Duerring says in order for Ariel to attend South Charleston High, her parents would have to request that no special services be provided.

Her parents say if it doesn't get worked out by Friday when school starts, she will not be going to school.

If she doesn't show up to school for a long period of time, the Board of Education would be forced to send a social worker to her home to investigate.