Students Petition to Save School’s ASL Program After Cuts

A high school’s ASL program was cut, forcing students to pick a spoken language instead

Pasadena, California is a city of incredible diversity–not only does it have some of the nation’s top schools and humbly boasts of one of the oldest Old Towns in Los Angeles, there is also a multitude of languages spoken here.

All things considering, it’s contradictory that one of Pasadena’s largest secondary schools cut out American Sign Language and now is planning to offer only Spanish next year for students’ foreign language courses. The students at Marshall Fundamental School are now protesting and asking for the program to continue with a petition.

Students complained that if the ASL program is cut completely, they would be forced into taking the only language option offered at their school: Spanish. They have different reasons for choosing ASL over a spoken language, not just for meeting college requirements.

Several students argued that Marshall is a liberal arts high school, therefore they should have access to American Sign Language as a way to enhance their theater skills and inspires their creativity in a visual-spatial form rather than just auditory. A mother of one of the students claimed that her daughter was failing Spanish and decided to try ASL, and now she is flourishing. She added that her daughter is a visual learner and would have been held back in her educational goals due to difficulties with a spoken language.

Students also expressed interest in taking up sign-language related work in the future such as interpreting and want to keep going with the program all the way to graduation.

There are many benefits, however one thing is unanimous among the students: by taking ASL, they experienced a great personal growth and awareness of the world around them that they felt they would not otherwise have had with another language. 

As Samantha James explained succinctly on the Change.Org petition:

The American Sign Language (ASL) Program has been cut from Pasadena Unified School District as it was about to enter its fourth year. The program has been growing and improving since its start, but despite student interest, the district has decided not to continue the program. At Marshall Fundamental, this will limit students’ exposure to a language other than Spanish (now the only foreign language offered). At all schools, it will jeopardize students’ abilities to achieve college requirements of 2-3 years of the same language. Students are now deprived the opportunity to learn from their Deaf teachers, Sonya Wilson and Danielle Iancului, and be immersed in the culture and language.

The students are asking for as many signatures as possible from the deaf and hearing ally communities. You can sign the petition here:

Change.ORG – Save Pasadena’s American Sign Language Program – Sign Here


  1. I’m Samantha’s mom and I could not be more proud to say that. Thank you for sharing their petition. The students at Marshall, whether they are involved in ASL classes or not, have demonstrated more commitment to diversity and cultural awareness than the school district administration. They will be presenting their case at this Thursday’s (5/25) school board meeting and invite anyone who would like to support them and our teachers to attend.



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