Make ASL Common Curriculum In Schools

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Sponsor: The Literacy Site

More than a half-million people throughout the U.S. use ASL to communicate, but it is still not part of the common curriculum.


American Sign Language is not standard in any school curriculum. Rather, it is offered as an elective course, lumped in with foreign languages1.

The fact is, ASL is the third most commonly used language in the United States, after English and Spanish. Approximately more than a half-million people throughout the U.S. use ASL to communicate as their native language2.

People who are deaf, mute, and on the spectrum, use ASL to communicate and interact with others, but they are not the only people who make use of ASL3.

Being proficient in ASL allows others without hearing issues to communicate with a wide range of hearing, hard of hearing, and deaf individuals—including students in mainstream and deaf school or university programs, as well as deaf or hard of hearing residents and business people. ASL also improves the quality of family communication for hearing people with deaf or hard of hearing family members4.

Parents who teach their infants sign language are often able to communicate more quickly with their children5. The sooner children are exposed to sign language, the more fluent they have the potential to become6.

Starting or continuing the study of sign language in high school prepares students follow through in college, becoming a sign language interpreter, speech language pathologist, or psychologist7.

Teaching sign language in both elementary and high schools can help to bolster communication between students, and prevent mainstreamed deaf students from feeling isolated at their schools8.

Several states throughout the country have begun to recognize ASL as a foreign language, which makes it easier to justify the teaching of sign language in schools1.

One school in Milwaukee guarantees that every child attending the school will be exposed to ASL9, while a high school in Temecula, CA, has a growing sign language program with up to three years of sign language offered10. The classes also teach about deaf culture, giving students the opportunity to understand the challenges those in the deaf community face, and the opportunity to become advocates in the program11.

Leaders in education like school board members and the Department of Education can also choose to make ASL an option in American schools. But that may not happen without some encouragement.

Sign the petition below to help Americans of all ages by asking for greater access to ASL resources and education in school.

More on this issue:

  1. Education Policy Counsel at National Association of the Deaf (15 February 2016), "States That Recognize American Sign Language."
  2. Olly Richards, StoryLearning, "American Sign Language: What You Need To Know And Why It's Unique."
  3. Kassidy Arena, KBIA (10 March 2019), "ASL Is on the Rise - But It's Not Always Part of the Deaf Experience."
  4. Lead With Languages, "Why Is It Important to Learn American Sign Language (ASL)?"
  5. Rachel H Thompson, Nicole M Cotnoir-Bichelman, Paige M McKerchar, Trista L Tate, Kelly A Dancho, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (2007), "Enhancing Early Communication through Infant Sign Training."
  6. Deaf Linx, "ASL Classes are Beneficial to Both Deaf and Non-Deaf Students."
  7. The Best Schools (30 June 2022), "Careers Working with the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing."
  8. Tom Humphries, Poorna Kushalnagar, Gaurav Mathur, Donna Jo Napoli, Carol Padden, Christian Rathmann, Scott Smith, Social Service Review (December 2016), "Avoiding Linguistic Neglect of Deaf Children."
  9. Milwaukee Sign Language School (2022), "Milwaukee Sign Language School."
  10. Craig Shultz, The San Diego Union-Tribune (14 January 2011), "TEMECULA: High school sign language program growing."
  11. National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (2019), "The Deaf Community: An Introduction."
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The Petition:

To the United States Secretary of Education and the Executive Director of the National School Boards Association,

American Sign Language is the third most commonly used language in the United States, after English and Spanish. Approximately more than a half-million people throughout the U.S. use ASL to communicate as their native language.

Unfortunately, many of these people are being left behind.

ASL is often offered as an elective course, lumped in with foreign languages, if offered at all. In schools where there is greater access to ASL education, children who are deaf, mute, and on the spectrum can find more opportunities to thrive.

Teaching sign language in both elementary and high schools can help to bolster communication between students, and prevent mainstreamed deaf students from feeling isolated at their schools. The sooner children are exposed to sign language, the more fluent they have the potential to become.

Some schools in the U.S. have set great examples of improving access to ASL resources. One school in Milwaukee guarantees that every child attending the school will be exposed to ASL, while a high school in Temecula, CA, have growing sign language programs with up to three years of sign language offered. The classes also teach about deaf culture, giving students the opportunity to understand the challenges those in the deaf community face, and the opportunity to become advocates in the program.

I implore you to help Americans of all ages by supporting greater access to ASL resources and education in school.

Sincerely,

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