My letter to Governor Cuomo re: 4201 schools
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21 February 2011
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
By now you have received many letters and appeals requesting you reconsider the shifting of funds from 4201 schools due to the fact that it is an ineffective measure at cost saving and for many other sound and just reasons. At a time when approximately 86% of Deaf children spend part or all of their school days in mainstream settings, there is a dire need for schools and programs that provide direct instruction, a fully natural and accessible language, Deaf role models and peers, and instructors who are skilled with methods and materials that approach the Deaf child from an additive point of view rather than a deficit point of view.
I add my humble appeal as well in the hope that reason and justice will come into your decision-making as you finalize the new budget proposal.
Recent research findings show:
- The deaf students who perform best academically usually are the ones whose parents have effectively communicated with them from an early age.
- Children who sign early on generally outperform those who do not sign during their early school years.
- Deaf students do not always learn, think, or know in the same ways as hearing children.
Many of the 4201 schools provide sign language classes for families of Deaf children and education about Deaf culture to ensure that the parents as well as the children are not washed away in the mainstream. This early intervention and education for both the child and the parent serves them well on in later years. These schools are also very familiar with the different ways in which Deaf children learn and do not force them into a one-Hearing-size fits all model that is often unavoidable in public school settings.
In addition to all of this, 4201 schools often provide Deaf children with roots & wings. As Hodding Carter stated, “There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.”
4th grader Elizabeth Mayes confirms the value of this in her letter to you where she explains: “At RSD, I feel so welcomed. I even know people like me. I learn a lot more than in mainstream. So, please, please, don’t close RSD or any other deaf schools in New York State.” Roots & wings come from a sense of belonging and ease so that the challenges can be those of the normal learning process and social / emotional development of any child rather than trying to constantly swim against the tide or just tread water.
Elizabeth’s older brother, David Mayes gives us a first hand look at what that constant near drowning in the mainstream can do when he bravely writes to you and shares of his truths: “….I was very sad and lonely, and I did not want to live. Yes, I was suicidal, and I was depressed and lonely, and didn’t know where I fit in. I didn’t have the will to live because no one wanted to be around a deaf student, and I do not want to go through the same thing over…”
The International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) 2010 Vancouver New Era agreement affirmed David and Elizabeth’s sentiments when it set forth an Accord for the Future in which it declared:
“We call upon all Nations of the world to ratify and adhere to the Principles of the United Nations, specifically those outlined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that state education is to be delivered with an emphasis on the acquisition of language and academic, practical, and social knowledge”
“We call upon all Nations to facilitate, enhance and embrace their Deaf citizens’ participation in all governmental decision-making process affecting all aspects of their lives”
“Call upon all Nations to support a child-centred approach in educational programs and a family-centred approach in all support services for Deaf and hearing family members.”
There are many other stories like Elizabeth and David’s, Governor Cuomo. Imagine sending your own child(ren) to schools in which they can only access information from an interpreter all day, day after day after day. The Deaf children and their families deserve suitable, humane, egalitarian, academically sound and just alternatives.
Please do not rip out the roots & in turn deny these children their wings.