Pasadena, California, the Board of Education’s meeting room overflowed with ASL speakers and supporters.
A total of 48 speaking cards were submitted before the meeting began, more cards were filled during the meeting, creating an overflow of intended speakers. Because of this, each speaker was allowed only two minutes to make time for everyone to be heard and only a few actually spoke before the Board made their decision.
The American Sign Language group was the largest and loudest at the meeting that night.
Samantha James, a hearing ASL student, opened comment by signing completely and used the provided interpreters to voice for her. Her fellow students stood in solidarity behind her, all dressed in black in support of ASL. She spoke about the petition she started and how many signed: 2,570 signatures.
Students spoke, parents spoke. James shared that she is using ASL already for volunteer work with deaf youths and plans to use the language for her future career.
Parents spoke of concern about their children’s foreign language requirements and celebrated their academic successes with ASL.
The Chief Academic Officer at Pasadena Unified School District, Dr. Shawn Bird, spoke in favor of the program. He emphasized that if the program was to be cut, it would leave many students short on their foreign language requirements for college entrance.
Dr. Bird continued to point out that “colleges require two years of foreign language and the competitive colleges prefer three years. The students need to be able to continue and get their two to three years in.” *
Board member Kimberly Kenne defended the program: “for my special needs children and students who are not as academic, ASL is a viable option for them instead of a written language because they can do it. It makes it possible for them to go to college.” *
Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald concluded the meeting by announcing that the ASL program will continue in Pasadena’s schools.
The board room erupted into cheers from the parents, students, and teachers and flowed out into the hallway where the ecstatic students and parents celebrated.
“I’m so excited and happy that we saved the ASL program! We need it for the future,” James signed in relief.
In that hallway, the relief and joy were contagious as the students excitedly expressed that they look forward to the next school year.
A Pasadena student signed, “thank you for saving the ASL program!”
*All quotes are taken from ASL interpretations