Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Springfield, Mo., schools to add ASL as foreign language choice


After a vote by the Springfield school board April 20, the district is adding another foreign language to its curriculum starting next school year.

Parkview is home to the district's hearing impaired and deaf high school students.

The language barrier that sometimes exists between deaf students and other students prompted the school to ask for the addition of American Sign Language to the district's foreign language offerings.

Deaf since age two, Parkview senior Hayley McLemore says hearing kids her age don't always understand the deaf community.

"Sometimes people make fun of us and think we're not exactly smart, and when we sign try to make fun of that and try to mimic it, and it's just not funny when they do it," she said.

Mclemore says communication barriers sometimes isolate deaf students from other students, as hearing students are intimidated or leary to talk with deaf students. This is something she hopes an American Sign Language class can help with.

"So they can communicate as well as a person, rather than an individual who is deaf. Hopefully they'll learn to make friends with other deaf people, step outside the box a little bit," McLemore said.

Interest for the class is overwhelming.

120 Parkview freshmen and sophomores requested to take the class next school year, with only two class sections available.

"They see interpreters in class and see kids signing, and think its cool, so they also want to know what we're saying and they want to understand it," McLemore said.

The school district says it wants to make sure more than just signing is taught in the class.

"It would really go into deaf culture which is very specific, very fascinating culture. It would also do the career piece. We are hiring interpreters yearly, speech pathologists, deaf educators," Springfield Public Schools Director of Special Education Amy Krause said.

Some of the deaf students also requested to take the class because they know other variations of signing like pigeon or standard English, but do not yet know American Sign Language.

The district says it can only open two sections of the class because of staffing availability. Students will be picked based on English grades and attendance.

Both Missouri State University and the University of Missouri accept American Sign Language as a foreign language fulfillment for admission to college.