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Petition helps save sign language classes at LAUSD

Mike Szymanski | September 10, 2015

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AmericanSignLanguageDeafA petition that garnered more than 56,000 signatures has helped restore American Sign Language classes that LA Unified had planned to eliminate through budget cuts.

With public pressure mounting and Gov. Jerry Brown calling for support of adult education for the disabled, the district found money to keep the program going after announcing the program’s closure in April.

Noelle Gabay, a petition organizer, solicited support from such groups as the teacher’s union UTLA, the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness and the California Department of Education to show support for the disabled and deaf as a funding priority.

“It has been a real battle, convincing LAUSD that these students deserve access to our educational system,” Gabay said.

A friend of hers, she said, suffered a permanent brain injury from an accident and he cannot speak but was taking the classes with his mother and finally was feeling whole again. “This ASL-based program allows him a rare opportunity to fully participate in our educational system,” she said. “He is inspired, motivated and truly values his time in class. They can now understand each other. That outcome is priceless.”

The LAUSD classes were going on in the North Valley Occupational Center, the Friedman Occupational Center and Marlton School.

Gabay said the battle to reinstate the classes took “a great deal of effort on a number of fronts.” She launched the petition and encouraged calls to the district. She found allies in Sacramento at the Department of Education. Matthew Kogan from UTLA helped, as did student advocate Manon Tree and Patricia Hughes, the chief executive officer for the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness.

“She worked tirelessly to save this program and preserving adult education for the deaf and disabled,” Gabay said of Hughes. “Her efforts in this area are ongoing and she is an expert and advocate for the deaf community.”



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