Sign of the Times that School Should Once Again Offer American Sign Language

by Lucy Sokol ’21

Sherwood should once again offer the American Sign Language (ASL) elective. ASL classes give students an insight into the deaf community and present more opportunities to communicate with the hearing-impaired.

The last time Sherwood had an ASL program was the 2017-2018 school year. John Falls, the resource teacher for the World Language department, said the enrollment for these classes were low with only 11-12 students, and classes at Sherwood typically require at least 18-20 students to carry. Due to the unusually low enrollment, students of various learning levels were placed in the same classroom. This created a challenge for the only ASL teacher Sherwood had at the time, Dreama-Dawn Cook.

Unfortunately, the course registration cards for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years excluded American Sign Language completely, indicating that Sherwood did not even give students the opportunity to sign up for an ASL elective. Although it is too late to do anything about this matter this school year, Sherwood should start taking steps to offer the class for next year. Signing develops awareness and sensitivity to cultural and linguistic diversity. The sooner we can bridge the gap between the hearing world and the deaf community, the better. Studies show that sign language enhances students’ creative thinking, provides them with better problem-solving and listening skills, as well as improves their academic achievement.

Several students here at Sherwood were devastated when they found out their American Sign Language elective did not come back in the 2018-2019 school year. In the years before, the only way Sherwood advertised its ASL elective was through the registration cards. As a way to inspire more students to try out a sign language class, the school needs to do much more to advertise the course to students. Without an ASL teacher currently in the building, others need to step up to promote the class. That could be the World Languages or Counseling departments.

The number of students enrolled in an elective should not determine whether or not students can join a class they might really enjoy or possibly want to pursue as a career. Sherwood is meant to be a diverse and welcoming environment, but throwing away a wonderful language like ASL does not fit these characteristics. Blake High School has a very successful ASL program with separate classes for multiple levels of ASL. If students at Blake enjoy this beneficial language so much, why does Sherwood believe their students would want it any less?