In a Related Story…

By BitcoDavid

Our contributor, Jean F. Andrews wrote this as a response to a comment on her last post. After reading it, I thought our readers who had not seen the original comment thread, would be interested in it. It may be useful to those of us who are not parents of Deaf children – but are interested in learning Sign – because she mentions Adapted Little Books. I’m thinking said books could be useful to Baby Signers like myself. I did a couple of different searches, and couldn’t find any exact reference to what Jean writes of, but I’ll get her to spill the beans for us. I think a see Spot run kind of thing might be just the ticket. I can translate Les Miserables down the road.

Yes there are many advantages to early access to ASL and that is well documented in the research literature.

However, we must not loss sight of the fact that our aim is to help children who do not have this early advantage. They come to school at age six or seven and their parents are often so frustrated with speech and hearing clinics who despite the best intentions have not been able to promote a basic language with their deaf children. In our reading acquisition research with families we have found them to be simply busy…with work, with family life, that many do not have the time to learn another language. It is a challenge of our profession to provide parents with training that fits into their schedule such as through YouTube, videophones, and the internet. One strategy we have found is using “Adapted Little Books,” These are short English phrase books that are translated into ASL (short stories about 2 to 3 minutes) that build a common core vocabulary in ASL and in English. These materials are free to parents and teachers.
Our deaf children are learning ASL and English at the same time and this is our teaching reality that we must address. Instead of saying…”you should have…or if only you were a deaf mother…etc. etc. Those are dead-end thoughts.

Funny Fanatics
Funny Fanatics

Meanwhile, from the Christ on a Crutch Desk comes this little nugget.

ABC reports that a New Jersey public school has threatened a 12 year-old girl with suspension if she continues using ASL to communicate with her friends on the school bus. got the story from Chazz Griffith, a member of the #Keep ASL In Schools Video Group on FaceBook.

School officials have threatened a hearing-impaired girl with suspension if she uses sign language to talk to her friends on the school bus, the girl’s parents say.

Danica Lesko and her parents say sign language is the only way to for the 12-year-old to communicate, especially while riding to school on a noisy bus.

But officials at Stonybrook School — which is not a school for the hearing-impaired — and district officials in Branchburg, N.J., apparently believe signing is a safety hazard. They have sent a letter to the Lesko family ordering Danica to stop using sign language on the school bus or risk a three-day suspension.

The March 30 letter from her principal that said Danica was “doing sign language after being told it wasn’t allowed on the bus.”

The Leskos may file a lawsuit over the sign language ban, claiming officials are violating Danica’s civil rights and violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“She has a hearing problem, and now she’s being punished for using sign language,” Mary Ann Lesko, Danica’s mother, told The Star-Ledger of Newark. “It’s absurd.”

Danica’s parents told the paper that other students who rode to school with their daughter made fun of her, and refused to stay in their seats as they teased other girls who were using sign language. They said school officials are singling out Danica and not addressing those who should really be reprimanded.

Schools Officials: Safety First

In a statement released through the school district’s attorney, David Rubin, the Branchburg Board of Education refused to discuss the details of Danica’s case, saying only that its version of events differs from the parents’ version.

However, the board insisted it has not violated anyone’s rights and is only trying to protect other students who must ride on the school bus.

“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,” officials said in the statement. “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.”

One deaf-rights advocate said Danica’s parents have a strong basis for a lawsuit because sign language could be a considered a foreign language, and school officials could be violating the girl’s First Amendment right to communicate.

“Why should there be a ban?” asked Charlotte Karras, outreach coordinator for the Edison, N.J.-based Alliance for Disabled in Action. “It’s a violation of her communication rights. She’s said it’s the only way she can communicate with her friends … It’s [the ban] against the ADA and violates the First Amendment and her family can file a discrimination suit citing the Americans With Disabilities Act.”

Karras said her organization would be willing to help the Leskos with any legal action.

Danica’s parents say she began losing her hearing last November, when a classmate allegedly shot a bottle rocket near her ear. They have already sued the Branchburg School District over that incident.

Block quoted in full from ABC news. I always endeavor to bring you original content, and if I take a news story from another source, I usually rewrite the story with citations, rather than simply reprint the entire story. In this case however, I feel it’s important enough to present it in this format.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

12 thoughts on “In a Related Story…

  1. FYI: I’ve seen this story going around lately, but you should know that this happened in 2001. I’ve been trying to research the story and find out more, but evidently the threat of a suspension was removed a few days later and according to one article I read ( ):

    “The district’s policy and the principal’s intention is not to ban signing,” Superintendent Lois Capabianco told the Associated Press last month. “Everyone needs to know that signing is allowed on the bus.”

    There seems to be more to the story than what the parents said, but the Superintendent couldn’t explain since there was a possible lawsuit. is notorious for not properly dating their stories, so old news keeps getting spread as if it was something recent.


    1. Yes, I just found that out. Apparently tends to recirculate old stories. I was unaware of that fact until yesterday. I will be posting the update today. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.


  2. “Adapted Little Books” is a series of emergent reader primers originally created by Dr Jana Mason and Dr Christine McCormick at the uninersity of Illinois. The 20 reproducible storybooks can be bought on amazon. As part of a research study we had native deaf parents translate the stories into ASL for purpose of distribution at the alabama school for the deaf and their parents. We had teachers provide one story session per week integrated in their language arts program. Our goal was to give children a fun time enjoying independent reading. We are documenting their growth in letter, word and story abilities. Our research will be published this year. Little books is a program devoped Byrd Mason and her colleagues and his supported by more than 25 years of research with hearing children. We adapted Dr Mason’s work with signing deaf children by adding ASL and are pleased with our results.


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