From the Democrat and Chronicle website:
Rush-Henrietta may reduce signing classes today
Some parents oppose middle school changes
(April 24, 2007) — HENRIETTA — A proposal to phase out American Sign Language classes at the middle school level has upset several deaf residents and parents of Rush-Henrietta students.
If the proposal is approved by the school board tonight, ASL would still be taught at the high school level, though, and more languages could eventually be added.
Lisa Sanford, director of languages other than English, said the district wants to focus on preparing its students for a worldwide community, and ASL — unlike other languages — is used primarily in the United States. Also, languages like Spanish and French have students reading and writing and practicing grammar while ASL doesn't follow the grammatical structures of English.
"We're trying to look at languages other than English that have the most global approach without losing our community focus," Sanford said, referring to the large deaf population in the area.
Although exact numbers aren't known, Rochester is home to one of the largest concentrations of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the country, primarily because of the Rochester School for the Deaf and Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
Still, only seven of the county's 19 school districts offer classes in ASL, according the Monroe County School Boards Association.
Three of those — Rush-Henrietta, Greece and some Rochester schools — teach it to middle school students.
"Honestly, I think they should try to do it in elementary," said Joanne Enright of Henrietta, who has two daughters at Sherman Elementary School. One of her daughters has already picked up ASL from a classmate who is deaf, and her younger daughter is learning, too, because she sometimes has classes with another student who is deaf.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to embrace a community and bring it into our own, while at the same time, being an example to the rest of the world of acceptance and tolerance," she wrote in a letter to the school board.
Even though Patti Canne's four children all use ASL at home with her, they enrolled in ASL classes at Rush-Henrietta.
"They want to improve their signs and learn more about deaf history, culture and literacy," Canne, who is deaf, wrote in an e-mail. "My children (who are all able to hear) also have a possibility of having deaf children in the future, too, and I believe they want to have the best skills to communicate with them."
By the numbers
In Henrietta — An estimate of seventh- and eighth-grade students enrolled in foreign languages:
American Sign Language, 167.
In Greece — Foreign languages start in eighth grade and not all languages* are offered at all locations. The numbers for the eighth grade:
American Sign Language, 144.