Segregation is a serious issue that our nation has to face; segregation between African American people and White people. The White man segregated the Indians, they segregated people because of religion, and they also segregated men and women. Most people think that segregation is behind us, but it is still happening today. We now segregate deaf children from other deaf children and Deaf adults by mainstreaming them. Deaf children are not able to learn their own language and their own culture in which they are entitled to. We need to stop segregation all together, but first we need to know our history. This paper will speak about Segregation in Deaf schools against the African American, Segregation in general against African American, and segregation that is caused by mainstreaming deaf children into the public school system.
` “Unlike most of their white counterparts in the period before the Civil War, Deaf African American went without formal schooling” (Burch, 2004). Before the Civil War, African American children were denied an education under slavery. When slavery ended after the Civil War, as a part of their new freedom, African American children were now able to go to school. African American people themselves usually had to buy their own land, build their own schoolhouses, and hire their own teachers. But it was worth it to them. Many families moved to where there was a school to be able to give their children a chance at an education (America's Reconstruction, 2003).
Some African American people always thought that segregation was wrong. But that is not how much of society looked at it. White people did not want to be mingling with African American people. They thought African American were below them.
On June 7, 1892 an African American man by the name of Homer Plessy worked for the railroad. His friend and he always had to ride in a separate cart traveling to one place to the next. Plessy’s friends talked him into jumping out of his cart and going to the cart full of white men. They knew he would be arrested, but they wanted to make a point and try to change the law. So he jumped out of his cart and jumped into the White man’s cart. He was arrested, and went to trial. The jury came back with the statement that African American people were “Separate but Equal.” Plessy lost his case, and had to pay a fine. That lawsuit affected many things. There were separation on buses, separate water fountains, separate bathrooms, and separate schools. African American was not allowed in many restaurants that White people enjoyed. This stayed into effect until the ruling “Brown vs. Board of Education” in 1954.
Deaf schools were no different. Many states had a State school for the white children, and a State school for the African American children. Here is a list of schools for African American Deaf children: Alabama- School for Negro Deaf-Mutes and Blind; District of Columbia- The Kendal School for the Deaf; Florida- Florida Institute for the Blind, Deaf and Dumb Colored Department; Georgia- Georgia School for the Negro Deaf; Kentucky- Kentucky had a school for Colored Deaf; Louisiana- Louisiana School for the Colored Deaf and Blind; Maryland- School for the Colored Deaf and Blind; North Carolina- North Carolina; Oklahoma- Oklahoma Industrial Institution for the Deaf, Blind, and Orphans of the Colored Race; South Carolina- South Carolina Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind, Colored Department; Tennessee-Tennessee School for the Colored Deaf and Dumb; Texas- Texas Institute for Deaf, Mute, and Blind Colored Youth; Virginia- Virginia School for the Deaf , Mute, and Blind Youth; West Virginia- West Virginia School for the Colored Deaf and Blind (Berke, 2009).
There were many differences between the schools that the white children went to in a state and that the African American children went too. North Carolina School for Colored Deaf and Blind was the first school that opened up for African American Deaf children. The book called “Sounds Like Home” is about a little African American girl named Mary which went deaf around the age of ten. Under the age of ten, she went to a school for African American children in her home town. After she went deaf, she no longer could go to school there, and was sent to North Carolina School for Colored Deaf and Blind. On a field trip she was able to go through the white school and see the differences. This is what she had to say, “Once, we went to a program in town at the school for the White blind children. Afterwards, we were given a tour of their campus and the differences between their school and ours were unbelievable. Instead of long rooms with rows of bed, all with white spreads and only shades at the windows, they lived in family-type houses with only a few bedrooms to each building and two or three to a room. Each house had a nice homey living room, a dining room with white tablecloths, and china, silver, and glassware instead of the bare tabletops and metal plates and cups we were accustomed to. The bedrooms had pretty collared spreads and ruffled curtains. The auditorium was beautiful with a sloping floor, comfortable individual seats, and a stage with rich red velvet curtains and floodlights, plus a heated swimming pool and gym in another wing. Ours was a level floor with hard wooden benches and no stage or curtains” (Wright, 1999). There were huge differences between the white and African American school in North Carolina. In the African American school they had no bathtubs, only showers and commodes compared to the white school which they had an indoor heated swimming pool. The children were separate, but not equal.
Virginia School for Colored Deaf and Blind Children could only admit 24 children into their school. All other children had to go to a different state to get there schooling. They also had horrible equipment, with hardly anything in the classrooms. Mississippi School for the Deaf, African American School had awful statistics for graduating students. Between the years 1873 and 1933 they only graduated a total of 6 students! That averages out to be one student every decade for 60 years. The African American school complained about their land, and the state refused to move the school. But the White School for the Deaf in Mississippi upgraded their school a total of 5 times between the years 1860 and 1960. African American children had to do their own work that would normally be done by staff members, like cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. The African American children did not only do their own work, they worked for the White School and cooked for them, cleaned for them, did their laundry. The white children did not have to do any work at all (Burch, 2004).
Georgia School for the Negro Deaf did not have any electricity or heat for their African American school until 1913. They did their homework under candlelight. The white school for the Deaf in Georgia did have electricity and heat (Burch, 2004).
In District of Columbia they have a school called Kendall School, which is right next to Gallaudet University (a university for the Deaf). This school refused to admit any African American children until 1952. Kendal did not admit African American Deaf children willing, they were actually ordered by a court to let African American Deaf in their school. Before that all African American Deaf children went to Maryland to go to school. “Kendall then set up a separate building, but the segregation was brief as in 1954 the historic Supreme Court ruling on integration meant that Kendall had to become integrated” (Berke, 2009).
Louisiana School for Colored Deaf and Blind was the last school to become unsegregated. This school did not become unsegregated until the year 1978. 24 years after the Brown vs. Board of Education.
The Brown vs. Board of Education happened in Topeka, Kansas. In 1951 a class action suit was filed. A group of parents were tired of sending their children to a segregated school that was not as good as the white schools. There were thirteen parents: Oliver Brown, Darlene Brown, Lena Carper, Sadie Emmanuel, Marguerite Emerson, Shirley Fleming, Zelma Henderson, Shirley Hodison, Maude Lawton, Alma Lewis, Iona Richardson, and Lucinda Todd. Their children had to walk past the white school every day to get to their school which was a lot further away. On May 17, 1954 the jury came back with a “unanimous decision stated that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”” (Wikipedia, 2010). After Brown vs. Board of Education schools across the nation had to start mainstreaming African American children and White children. That is the same for Deaf Schools. Sadly, it took some schools longer than needed. As stated earlier it took Louisiana School for the Deaf 24 years after the court ruling.
It was not only elementary schools, middle schools and high schools that had the segregation issues. Universities also had issues regarding segregation. Gallaudet University stated “While there is no legal restriction, as far as I can see, against a colored person entering Gallaudet College, such a student would at once present a very difficult problem of administration. Many of our students are from the South, where the schooling of white and colored is carried on separately. In fact this is the case in the District of Columbia, also…. Under the circumstances we should dislike very much to encourage a colored student to attend, feeling he might be very unhappy here and cause much uneasiness and unhappiness among others……” (Burch, 2004).
In the 1900’s all schools for the White Deaf were going toward Oralism. They hoped to make deaf children pass off to be hearing. They focused on lip reading and speech. With this movement, they had smaller classrooms and hired only women. The schools that use to be taught in Sign Language usually had a male teacher. African American schools for the Deaf still taught in Sign Language, it was only the White schools that used Oralism. With this movement a lot of male Deaf teachers were out of a job. Gallaudet University stated “…. I do not think there is a ghost of a chance that one of our schools for white children would engage such a young man as a teacher, and the salaries and conditions of working in many of the colored schools for the deaf are not particularly attractive” (Burch, 2004). The only jobs left for male Deaf teachers were at the colored schools, and they refused to take those jobs, because of the quality of those schools were so low.
Even before Oralism became popular, because of the segregation issues, African American children formed their own form of sign language - which is now called Black American Sign Language. It has now almost died out, because white and African American deaf children are now mainstreamed together, but it did exist and still does exist. Black American Sign Language was its own language. It is “much like African American Vernacular English and Standard English, it differs in vocabulary and grammatical structure from ASL. Black American Sign Language is not considered to be grammatically incorrect; instead, it is considered a dialect of American Sign Language, complete with its own rules for grammar, syntax and vocabulary” (Wikipedia, 2010).
Because of segregation and Black American Sign Language, African American and white deaf people could not easily communicate with each other. As a result, there was a man by the name of Junius Wilson. He was an African American Deaf man and, as a child, went to North Carolina School for Colored Deaf and Blind. After Junius graduated, his uncle did not want to care for him. His uncle called the police and accused Junius of raping his wife. The state officials could not understand Junius, so they put him into the North Carolina State Hospital. He spent 76 years of his life at this hospital, without being charged guilty of any crime. At age 24, the State did a legal castration on Junius Wilson. It was not until the 1990’s, that Junius Wilson was appointed a Social Worker by the name of John Wasson. John Wasson helped Junius Wilson sue the state for illegally keeping him at the State Hospital for so many years. By this time, Junius did not know anything else, and decided to stay. He won $226,000, and built himself a little cabin on hospital grounds. He lived there until he was 92 in 2001, and that is where he died (Burch, 2004). What an awful thing that happened to this man, only because he was an African American Deaf man.
Most people think that segregation does not happen today, at least not nearly as much as before. Sadly, segregation is still happening in the Deaf Community. Not the same way as what happened to the African American Deaf people, but what is happening to all deaf children across the country, right now! This type of segregation, most people do not really think about it, but if you study it, you will realize it. Today, deaf children are getting mainstreamed into public schools. This segregates them from other deaf children and the deaf community. They grow up isolated, not ever feeling truly accepted, and not being able to communicate comfortably with other children their age. “Except for mildly and moderately deaf children, mainstreaming imposes additional and severe restrictions on the environment. At the state schools, deaf children find real acceptance among their peers; a rich and varied dormitory life; and a community of signers” (Neisser, 1996). A child that goes to a Deaf school is more likely to participate in sports, be involved in Student Body Government, and be involved in class discussion. A deaf child being mainstreamed “means one deaf child in a class with a sign interpreter. For some, it involves integration in a regular class where the teacher “has access” to a resource person who may or may not know anything about deafness. To a school in a rural district, it may mean nothing at all, a teacher grappling with thirty hearing students who does no more than give the simplest standards individualized reading material to her single deaf student” (Doolittle, 1977).
Deaf children need Deaf role models. Some deaf children go throughout their childhood never meeting another deaf person, let alone a deaf adult. They sometimes think that they will die once they became an adult, because every adult they have ever met has been hearing. These children are segregated from Deaf adults, the Deaf community, Deaf culture, and know nothing about Deaf history. If they were able to have access to this, they could realize that they can live happy productive life’s, being deaf. They learn that deafness is a language minority, not a disability. By being a part of the Deaf community, they will get a sense of pride for being deaf. “If the child grows up with their family thinking the deafness is a stigma, then the child is likely to have low self-esteem. A high percentage of deaf children have low self-esteem profiles, which researchers think may be tied to lack of communication” (Desselle, 1992). If we always focus on something they cannot do, instead of something that they CAN do, then of course the child will have bad self-esteem. Segregating a deaf child will give that child a low self-esteem. By involving them in the Deaf community, the deaf child will realize that they can do anything that a hearing person can do. It is not a disability, like so many people will try to tell the child that it is.
So what caused mainstreaming in schools? In 1975, Congress passed a new law called “Education of All Handicapped Children.” (P.L. 94-142) Later, it was signed by President Gerald R. Ford on November 29, 1975 which fully took place as a new law. The Education of All Handicapped Children changed how we place deaf children in education today.
Before 1975, more than one half of all children having some kind of disability were not getting the services that they needed. They were not getting the education that they deserved. “There are more than eight million handicapped children in the United States today” (Cheadle, 1987). Over a million children with disabilities were not allowed to go to a public school. Parents with handicapped children had to find other sources to help educate their children, and had to pay for it themselves. “Not only was this detrimental to the children, but it was also a disservice to society” (Tina T, 2010). Disabled children sometimes had to live at a different place than their parents, because the day to day travel was just too far. Congress started seeing these issues and started passing laws to help solve some of these issues. The law “changed those situations by requiring that all children with disabilities, including those who are deaf, be educated in the least restrictive environment” (David A. Stewart, 1998).
Before the LRE came into effect, Utah was already mainstreaming deaf children into hearing schools during the 1960’s. Much of the emphasis for mainstreaming came from the University of Utah and Dr. Bitter. In 1990, Baldwin wrote, “Bitter argued that residential schools were too isolated from society, and advocated day schools and classes in public schools” (Kinner, 2007). Dr. Bitter is not a friend to the Deaf community. He really fought for children to learn the Oral Method, and against deaf children signing. Utah is considered an “Oral State”, which can be a tragic thing for the deaf children. By not placing an emphasis on the use of American Sign Language, it could hurt the child’s ability to fully function and do well in school. The problem is that a parent with a deaf child may not always know all the information. The parent wants their child to be “normal”, and believes that, by making them learn how to lip read and speak, the child will become “normal.” The problem is that only a few percent of deaf children are successful at it. Many educators and families in Utah were afraid of the LRE law. Utah School for the Deaf (USD) would be closed down because it was considered as a “Special School.” Children would no longer come to USD to be educated, but would go to the public schools in their area. Now mandated by law, students are to be placed in the “Least Restrictive Environment” (or LRE). “In fact, Section 612 (5) [later renamed as IDEA 2004 612 (a) (5) (A)] states, “…special classes, special schooling, or other removal of handicapped children from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the handicap is such that education in regular classes, with the use of supplementary aides and services, cannot be achieved satisfactory” (p.1)” (Kinner, 2007).
When it comes to deaf children, the LRE can be a disservice. Mainstreaming “does not support quality of education or a rich language and social environment, factors which mainstream program directors neither understand nor feel compelled to consider.” The problem is deaf children, of course, cannot hear, so they are missing out on learning their own language to the full degree. They are missing out on interacting normally with other children. A deaf child and a hearing child cannot communicate on a deep level. Meanwhile, deaf children are missing out on social interaction. Deaf children may have a lot of friends on the superficial level. On the deep friendship level, they are not able to really connect. The Deaf Community, and those who support them, feels that deaf children are better able to face challenges ahead of them more easily if they are in a school for the deaf.
There are many people who believe that Schools for the Deaf are a better way to go for deaf children. Some deaf children that are mainstreamed at first, then end up going to a School for the Deaf, report that they are happier. By mainstreaming a deaf child, in a way you are segregating that child. Segregating the deaf child is not what the LRE law intended, but it is what happens. The reason for the segregation is because, like what was stated earlier, deaf children are unable to communicate fully with their peers. Another down side of the LRE for deaf children is that it is difficult for them to learn their natural language, which is American Sign Language (ASL). Before a child can learn, they need to have a full language. 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents, which prevents them to learn their full language. By teaching a deaf child, speech/oral, it does not give a deaf child a full language either. The best way for a deaf child to really learn his or her language, ASL, is to let them interact with other deaf children and deaf adults. Mainstreaming a child does not give them access to other deaf children and deaf adults. It just gives them access to a lot of hearing children, adults, and one interpreter who may know ASL. A deaf child cannot learn their full language from one hearing interpreter. A child not having a full language will get behind in school.
Mainstreaming has shown better success to deaf children from a deaf family. The reason behind this is that the deaf child has been using ASL since he or she was born. By the time they enter into school, they already have a full language, which makes them ready to learn how to read, write and do math. They are not as segregated as other deaf children, because they have access to communication, Deaf adults, and the Deaf community.
A lot of the time, a child gets a Cochlear Implant, and then is expected the learn to speak and interact with hearing children in a mainstream environment. The deaf child is forbidden to learn American Sign Language. The problem with this is like we mentioned before, a child needs to have a full language before he or she is able to learn. Parents and educators sometimes believe that if a deaf child gets a cochlear implant they will be able to hear, and as a result, learn how to speak English. Only 4.4% of deaf children that get a cochlear implant are able to become fully successful (Johnson, 2006). That brings us back to the problem that a child is not getting a full language, so the longer it takes for a child to learn ASL, the more behind they get in school. Some children’s parents hold out the hope of their children being “normal” like themselves, and the child does not learn ASL until they are in the late childhood which puts them very far behind. Some schools for the deaf focus so much on teaching the children how to speak that they neglect other subjects. Deaf children need more time to learn how to read and write, but, in some situations, are only focusing on speech.
We need to learn from history. History has proven that deaf children are not as happy, or do as well in public schools then they do for schools for the Deaf. We need to stop Segregating our deaf children, and put them in a place where they can freely socialize with other children there same age. Having only one person to communicate with, which is a hearing adult interpreter, is not fair to the child. They need other children their own age to socialize with and communicate with. Mainstreaming is segregation when it comes to the deaf.
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