Texas Principal: "There's no such thing as Deaf culture"

By: Mary Patricia

The Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas has been facing a lot of issues with their schools meeting the minimum standard requirements for their students.. The principal of Braun Station Elementary has told people that he did not believe that Deaf Culture existed. Some parents had no idea what was going on until there was a protest against the school district.

After the protest back in December of 2018, two of the Auditorial Impairment (AI) classrooms were taken away from students that have “least restrictive environment” in their IEP set forth by their parents. In the process of doing this, the students in the lawsuit have had their IEPs violated and guaranteed services taken away from them. The school's solution was to place these students “in a closet [that] they cleared everything out and stuck a desk in it with no books, no posters, no resources and no fire alarm. I’ve heard things have gotten better since then because [a lot] of complaints went to board meetings a few times.” (Mayda Garcia)

Kaylee Lartigue's “Deaf Girl Evolution” was filmed at the NISD February 2019 School Board Meeting addressing the board. She first talked about their noninclusive efforts including captioning accessibility on their videos. After her initial comment, she also stated that she understood that this was all politics. “I went to speak at NISD's School Board Meeting. I went to tell them that I know that Dr. Woods, the superintendent and Dr. Chubly, the board president had a private conversation where they decided to not add my item of creating a protocol that requires all videos have captions to the board agenda." (Kaylee Lartigue)

Lartigue also stated loud and clear that the school district board have been entrusted with listening, observing and making unbiased decisions for students, staffs, and schools in the school district. Their role was to be advocates for the students' right to accessibility. “I am here today to tell you that you have failed me.” (Lartigue)

Dr. Angela K. Trahan, one of the two professionals that were called before the school board to testify about student needs in the district stated that NISD board members were elected however they are having to do what their voters are electing. “The biggest concern here is that AGBell has strong influences in San Antonio which has seemingly weakened the ASL support in the area. In that area, Sunshine Cottage for the Deaf is located there and it is a strictly oral school.” Parents that want their children to learn ASL or can not afford the “private tuition of Sunshine Cottage” send their children to NISD.

Dr. Trahan presented two books in front of the board in an effort to provide resources for the district and to assist the board in understanding Deaf Culture better. One was called, The Light of Deaf Women which is a book she was in. The other one was called Language Deprivation Deaf Mental Health . “I’m so surprised the board turned deaf to my recommendations about building a library of deaf culture for deaf children."

An anonymous parent came forth and shared their thoughts about the situation and she feels many changes needs to be made in the administration at the very least, replacing the principal and the superintendent. They have no knowledge of deaf education. Another concern was that the principal for the Regional Day School Program for the deaf should not be a person who believes there is no deaf culture.

Northside Independent School District Superintendent Brian Woods, who was named the Texas Superintendent of the Year in September, had become a finalist for a national honor: National Superintendent of the Year. Because of the efforts behind several individuals involved in the protests, the National Society was discouraged from selecting him. Under his photograph on the website sharing his finalist position it said, “Northside Independent School District Superintendent Brian Woods speaks about the importance of promoting access and equity for after school programs.”