Gesture as a Mediating Factor in Speech and Sign Language Storytelling

Gesture as a Mediating Factor in Speech and Sign Language Storytelling

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Gesture as a Mediating Factor in Speech and Sign Language Storytelling



There are many hearing individuals who do not
know sign language but move their hands when
speaking. Chances are these people would have a hard
time telling the same story if asked not to use their hands.
Additionally, the story told without the assistance of
gesture would likely seem lackluster by comparison. The
question becomes, to what degree is gesture an integral
part of effective storytelling and how much does it add
to the complexity and richness of a story? How does
the gesture used in oral storytelling compare to that
used in American Sign Language (ASL) storytelling? If
gesture is taken into consideration, will the complexity of
information conveyed be equivalent between languages?
These are questions that Drs. Sarah Taub, Dennis Galvan,
and Pilar Piñar sought to answer in their recent study
on the contribution of hand and body movements to the
complexity and depth of ASL, English, and Spanish
storytelling (Taub, Galvan, & Piñar, 2004).
Dennis Galvan Pilar Piñar Sarah Taub
Psychology Foreign Languages Linguistics
Forming Questions
The inspiration to explore the above questions
grew from the .ndings of Galvan and Taub’s previous
study (2004) in which they compared narratives by
native ASL and English users. Results from this study
indicated that when compared with English users, ASL
signers consistently incorporated much more conceptual
A Publication of the Gallaudet Research Institute at Gallaudet University Spring 2005
Kozol Presentation Combines Wit,
Wisdom, Outrage, and Compassion**
By Robert C. Johnson
Jonathan Kozol, author of such
books as Death at an Early Age
and Savage Inequalities, gave a
presentation at Gallaudet on March
30 called “Shame of the Nation: Resegregation,
Inequality, and Over-
Testing in Public Education.” The
talk was sponsored by the Gallaudet
Research Institute as part of its
Schaefer Distinguished Lecture Series.
In addition to the presentation, Kozol participated in
several other sessions with Gallaudet faculty and students
in which he reported learning a great deal about deaf
students and their educational needs. He said he was
particularly intrigued to learn from Gallaudet Department
of Education faculty and students—deaf and hearing—
that the statement “separate is never equal” does not
necessarily apply to deaf students, many of whom thrive
in education programs outside the mainstream. Kozol said
his focus has not been on separate programs that are well
designed and effectively meeting students’ needs. His
concern is that current governmental and socioeconomic
factors in America are depriving many students of quality
educational experiences because of “racial apartheid”
which is forcing too many minority children to stay
in inferior learning environments. During a question
and answer session with Kozol, Dr. Barbara Gerner de
Garcia, a faculty member in Gallaudet’s Department
of Educational Foundations and Research, pointed out

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Related Searches

that many of Kozol’s concerns do indeed apply to deaf
children. Over forty percent of deaf children are from
minority populations, Gerner de Garcia said, and many of
these are living in disadvantaged communities.
When one audience member asked Kozol what effect
his books have had on U.S. educational policy, he said
* Talibah E. Buchanan, a .fth year doctoral student in the Clinical
Psychology program, is the 2004-2005 Walter G. Ross Graduate Fellow.
She can be contacted at Talibah.Buchanan@Gallaudet.edu
** An abbreviated version of this article appeared in the April, 15 issue
of On the Green, a Gallaudet publication.
Continued on Page 2 Continued on Page 3
Jonathan Kozol
2 Research at Gallaudet Spring 2005
“None. Many people, including teachers, parents, and civil
rights groups have gotten insight and comfort from my
books, which for me is justi.cation enough for continuing
to write them. But the powers that be are generally
indifferent or dismissive.”
That statement and the title of his presentation clearly
suggest that Kozol is not impressed by such efforts of
Congress and the president as the No Child Left Behind
Act of 2001. To indicate why he is cynical about current
educational policy, Kozol points to recent cuts in such
programs as Head Start which he believes were beginning
to close the education gap many years ago. Now, he
said, children brought up in impoverished homes and
communities are in fact left very much behind during their
preschool years while wealthier children often have rich
(and expensive) learning experiences. Once poor black or
Hispanic children reach the third grade, they now begin
to be “bludgeoned” by batteries of tests and rote-learning
when what is needed is a helping hand earlier on: the kind
of enriched learning that government for a while was fairly
generously funding. “It’s outrageous,” Kozol said, “to
demand that kids be accountable for passing tests if they
are deprived of childhood educational experiences.”
Amy DiGaudio (left ) and Heidi Holmes (right), .rst year doctoral
students in Gallaudet's Department of Education, talk with Kozol.
Much of what Kozol had to say was framed by the noholds-
barred political analysis described above, but those
who attended seemed equally if not more impressed by the
vivid details Kozol used to make his points and by Kozol’s
poignant autobiographical narrative. As a Rhodes Scholar
in love with English literature, Kozol was surprised to
discover that he disliked the elitist environment at Oxford.
He moved to France, where he was inspired to write by
such authors as Richard Wright, William Styron, and
James Baldwin, then he returned to Harvard Square to
await inspiration.
The inspiration that sparked his entire professional and
writing career came in 1964 when three college students
who went to Mississippi to create summer schools for
black children were murdered by policemen who were also
members of the Ku Klux Klan. Kozol and millions of likeminded
Americans were outraged, but Kozol took action,
driving his VW bug from Harvard Square to an African
Methodist Episcopal Church in a different neighborhood
to ask the minister what he could do to help disadvantaged
children. It was that short drive over a great divide that led
to Kozol’s career as a fourth grade teacher of black and
Hispanic children in the inner cities of Boston and, later,
the South Bronx and his many books on the experience of
educating this neglected population.
Kozol said that children growing up in places like the
South Bronx are far less likely than children in wealthier
areas to receive early medical and dental care or vision
testing or to arrive at school well-fed and ready to learn.
Children in his classes have often suffered traumas such
as witnessing homicides. One-fourth of the students in
the South Bronx see their fathers only in prison--if at all.
Many poor inner city children don’t even go to school.
Increasingly, children who can’t pass tests are held back in
school and eventually drop out. In the South Bronx, 99.8
percent of the children in elementary schools are not white,
the victims of what Kozol calls “economic apartheid,” a
segregation forced upon them by the price of housing. The
educational effects of economic segregation have been
reinforced since the Reagan administration, Kozol said,
by an emphasis on allowing children to attend their local
schools, in effect stopping the process of desegregation.
Compounding the disincentives these children feel
toward going to school, the current mania for testing,
Kozol said, is “eliminating all whim and joy and mischief
from education. Testing has doubled since Bush became
president. Principals, terri.ed of losing their jobs, are
forced to become tyrants. Teachers have scripted lesson
plans and are forced to teach books of little literary value.”
Kozol said that Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’
Neighborhood,” moved by one of his books, asked if
he could visit the children in his class, though he was
concerned the children might .nd him “intimidating.”
Kozol and Rogers went together by subway to the church
attended by many of his students, whereupon a six-yearold
boy ran to and hugged the surprise guest, saying,
“Welcome to MY neighborhood, Mr. Rogers!” Kozol said
he hasn’t taken down the sticky note on his wall with Mr.
Rogers’ phone number on it. “I like to think I could call
him if necessary,” he said, with a rueful smile.
Kozol Presentation, Continued from page 1
Spring 2005 Research at Gallaudet 3
Research at Gallaudet is available free of charge.
Address inquires to Research at Gallaudet, Gallaudet
Research Institute, Gallaudet University, 800
Florida Ave., NE, Washington, DC 20002-3660.
Phone: (202) 651-5995 (V/TTY). Contributing to
this issue were Talibah E. Buchanan, and Robert
Clover Johnson. Special thanks are due to Dennis
Galvan, Michael Karchmer, Pilar Pinar, Larry
Siegel, and Sarah Taub, for the materials and advice
they provided for the articles and photos in this
issue. Comments related to articles in this issue are
welcomed by the editor and may be sent by e-mail to
Robert.C.Johnson@gallaudet.edu.
Robert Clover Johnson
Senior Research Editor
Talibah E. Buchanan
Walter Ross Fellow
Michael A. Karchmer, Director
Gallaudet Research Institute
Copyright © April 2005
Gallaudet Research Institute
Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C.
information into their descriptions of motion events. A
motion event was de.ned as an event where an entity
moves from place to place, or is identi.ed as being located
at a speci.c place.
For the purpose of their study, Galvan and Taub used
a scene from the children’s storybook, Frog, Where Are
You? (Mayer, 1969) as a prompt for both ASL and English
motion narratives. They then compared video clips of
native ASL users and written transcripts of native English
users retelling the story. Using this data, three distinct
but related analyses were performed. In their .rst area of
concentration, Galvan and Taub compared the amount of
conceptual information speci.ed by each of the narrators.
Comparisons were based on a detailed analysis of the basic
conceptual pieces of narratives, de.ned by Talmay (1985).
These portions of the narrative included the .gures or
moving entities, the spatial relations between .gures, the
ground or landscape against which the .gure(s) moved, the
motion of the .gure(s), the path of movement, the manner
of movement, and the affective states of the .gures.
A statistical analysis suggested that while there was
no difference between languages for .gure and ground
information, the languages approached a signi.cant
difference in the extent to which they encode speci.cs of
spatial relations. ASL users gave more speci.c accounts of
the spatial relations in the scene. ASL users also included
information related to internal affective states, speci.cally
mentioned instances of motion, speci.ed the path of
.gures, and detailed the manner of motion signi.cantly
more often than English users.
In a second analysis Galvan and Taub looked at the
frequency of encoding each piece of information. This
information was conceptualized as the “reinforced”
information because the repetition served to reinforce the
viewer’s mental imagery and assist with comprehension
of new information that was mixed with the repeated
information. Therefore, results indicated that overall
ASL users “reinforce” the information more than English
users. Just as in the .rst area of analysis the difference
was not observed within each basic conceptual piece of
the narrative, but was signi.cant for information about the
.gures, motion events, manner of those events, path of
motion, and reported internal affective states of the .gures.
ASL narrators not only gave more speci.c accounts of the
spatial relationships, but they also gave them more often.
ASL users repeatedly presented the same information.
In their .nal analysis of the narratives Galvan and Taub
catalogued the syntactic forms used in each language
to express the content of the scene. Together the basic
conceptual pieces of the narrative revealed that English
narrators relied on nouns, pronouns, prepositional phrases,
plural pronouns, a variety of verb forms, and conjunctions.
In contrast, ASL narrators primarily relied on classi.er
constructions and occasional referential shifts.
Taken together, the three areas of analysis revealed that
ASL signers consistently incorporated more conceptual
information into their descriptions of motion events when
compared with English speakers. Moreover, ASL signers
repeated this information more frequently and had a strong
preference for expressing conceptual elements through
classi.ers and referential shifts.
Such a .nding could lead one to believe that when
compared with spoken English, ASL is a much more
complex and rich language. However, upon examination
Galvan and Taub were not fully convinced that this
was the reality. They were troubled by the fact that the
comparisons in their study were between video clips
and written transcripts. Such an analysis could give an
advantage to the ASL narratives since they were permitted
full access to spatial and nonmanual elements (e.g.
body shifts) that were not noted in the written English
transcripts. This view was further supported by McNeil’s
(1992) work in which he illustrated how gestures are
Gesture as a Mediator, Continued from page 1
4 Research at Gallaudet Spring 2005
tightly bound to the spoken message they accompany, and
that much of the conceptual information of a narrative
may be expressed through meaningful gesture. Therefore
Galvan and Taub decided to design a study in which the
meaningful gesture that accompanied spoken language
was included in analysis.
Designing a Comprehensive Study
In their efforts to design a study that would investigate
the contribution of meaningful gesture Taub and Galvan
joined forces with Piñar. Together the three investigators
collaboratively proposed a comprehensive study in which
videotaped narratives of native ASL users, native English
speakers who did not know sign language, and native
Spanish speakers who did not know sign language would
be compared. By including both English and Spanish
users, Taub, Galvan, and Piñar allowed for differences to
be explored across distinct aural/oral languages as well as
between aural/oral and sign languages.
The use of multiple languages and various modes of
communication in the current study design was not only
theoretically supported but was also substantiated by the
.ndings of earlier research. Slobin's (1996) study indicated
that in written narratives, Spanish users consistently
present fewer explicit Manner and Path elements than
English users (Slobin, 1996). On the other hand, in the
study described above, Taub and Galvan (2004) found that
ASL signers expressed more information elements of all
types (except ground) than English speakers. However,
McNeill (1992) maintained that when examining
informational components of languages it is crucial to
include the contribution of gesture. He contended that
gestures tend to highlight information that is in some
way novel or salient in the discourse and that they are
often used in a language-speci.c manner. In general, the
use of gesture was considered unique to the information
structure of the speci.c language. Therefore, for English
speakers it would make sense that gesture could be used to
modulate manner and .ll in the lexical gaps. For Spanish
speakers gesture would likely be used to express manner,
path, or other lexical information. For ASL users, lexical
and gestural elements are more dif.cult to distinguish and
therefore the elements of the language that are expressed
through the use of gesture were not predictable.
Conducting the Study
After obtaining a Gallaudet University priority grant
from the Gallaudet Research Institute, and with the
theoretical differences of gestural use between languages
in mind, Taub, Galvan, and Piñar recruited twelve native
English speakers, twelve native Spanish speakers, and
eleven native ASL signers. English and ASL users were
recruited in the United States and Spanish speakers were
recruited in Spain. Each subject was paired with another
native user of the same language. Subjects were then asked
to watch an animated “Tweety Bird” cartoon and retell the
story to the other native user with whom they were paired.
The instructions were then to relate the cartoon clearly
enough for the partner to tell the story to a third person.
Both the subject and their partner’s retelling of the cartoon
were videotaped, but only the subject’s videotape was
analyzed for the present study.
Once the videotaped narratives were collected, a single
motion scene was isolated. This scene was then transcribed
and analyzed by the member of the research team who
was a native speaker of the language. However, in order to
ensure consistency in coding criteria and coder reliability
across subjects or languages, the coding for each subject in
each language was subsequently discussed by all three of
the investigators.
In the scene selected for analysis, the cat and the
bird were on the same .oor of two high-rise apartment
buildings that were on opposite sides of an alley. The cat
studied the bird through his window and calculated the
distance between himself and the bird. He then grabbed
a rope and swung in an arc from his window toward the
bird’s window. Missing the window, the cat smashed into
the brick wall beside it and slid to the street below.
Based on the isolated portion of the cartoon, the
researchers developed a comprehensive list of the
conceptual elements, including potential Figure (e.g., cat
or bird), Ground (e.g., building or window), Path (e.g., arc,
across, or towards the window), Manner (e.g., swinging
or smashing), and Instrument (e.g., rope) elements. Using
this list the total number of conceptual elements expressed
for each conceptual category; the number of elements
expressed through speech or lexical sign elements; and the
number of elements expressed through meaningful gesture
or gestural sign elements were calculated. The total length
of time to retell the cartoon was also noted.
Determining what portions of the signed stories were
lexical and which were spatially mapped (gestural)
was a complex process. Through repeated theoretical
discussions and the use of previous research (Liddell,
2000), Taub, Galvan, and Piñar developed operational
de.nitions for classi.cation. If a sign or component of a
sign could be described phonologically as a discrete unit
or a composition of discrete units, was systematically
shared by all members of the linguistic community,
and had to be remembered, then it was considered to
be lexical. In contrast, if the sign or component of the
sign was not conventionalized and not listed in the
Spring 2005 Research at Gallaudet 5
lexicon it was determined to be a spatially mapped sign
element. In general, spatially mapped sign elements
were creatively made up by the signer on the spot.
For example the concept of a cat is usually introduced
through a lexical sign which has been fully established
and is conventionalized. However, the cat grasping a
rope is usually shown by taking on the cat’s role and
demonstrating or mapping his movements.
For all languages, the conceptual elements expressed
were counted once per narrative. When an element
was expressed bimodally (both lexically and through
meaningful gesture), the speci.c element was coded as
both lexical and gestural, but counted only once in the
overall amount of conceptual information for the narrative.
A New Perspective
When examining the videotaped narratives of each
subject group it was evident that spatial mapping
(meaningful gesture) was a crucial part of the storytelling
for users from all three languages. As seen in Figure 1,
users of both signed and spoken languages used their
bodies to show the actions and locations of imagined
characters. When asked to retell the animated motion story
in their own language, deaf ASL signers, hearing English
speakers, and hearing Spanish speakers all combined
established words and grammar with remarkably similar
body postures. Furthermore, certain types of information
were consistently expressed through body postures,
regardless of whether the overall language was signed or
spoken.
After demonstrating that all language users were using
meaningful gesture when re-telling the cartoon, Taub,
Galvan, and Piñar set out to analyze the information
conveyed through spatial mapping. A detailed analysis
suggested that when both lexical and meaningful
gestural information were taken into consideration
for English and Spanish speakers, similar amounts of
conceptual information could be found in the narratives
of each language group. As seen in Table 1 some of the
information for each language was expressed solely
through lexical means (the lower section of the bar).
Other information was expressed purely through spatially
mapped means (the upper section of the bar). Additionally,
some of the information was expressed through both
lexical and spatially mapped methods (the middle section
of the bar).
Table 1
In comparing languages, Taub, Galvan, and Piñar
found that Spanish and English users expressed more
Sylvester the cat ASL user English speaker Spanish speaker
Figure 1
6 Research at Gallaudet Spring 2005
information lexically, whereas ASL users expressed more
information through spatial mapping. This difference in
how information is expressed helped to explain the results
previously found by Galvan and Taub (2004). If one
were to compare only the lexical information expressed
in the two spoken languages with the total amount of
information (mapped and lexical) expressed in ASL, there
would be a disparity between ASL and the two spoken
languages, with ASL expressing more overall information.
However, the difference between the spoken languages
and ASL fades when the gestural information (spatial
mapping), that was not also expressed lexically, is taken
into consideration.
After showing that spatial mapping contributed to the
amount of information expressed, Taub, Galvan, and
Piñar set out to determine if similar types of information
were conveyed in a similar way. Through this analysis
they determined that Figure and Ground information was
primarily conveyed lexically across all three languages.
Although some Figure/Ground information was expressed
bimodally for all languages, no Figure/Ground information
was expressed solely through spatial mapping. In addition,
when looking at the total Figure/Ground information
expressed, ASL users expressed less overall information
but exhibited more spatial mapping than English or
Spanish users (Table 2).
Table 2
Path information, on the contrary, was primarily
conveyed through spatial mapping in all three languages.
As seen in Table 3, ASL users almost exclusively made
use of spatial mapping to express Path information,
even though, in some cases, the same information was
expressed bimodally. For the most part, every time a
Spanish or English user expressed Path information
lexically, the same information was also encoded spatially.
Only in a few instances was Path information expressed
entirely through a lexical modality. On the other hand,
some Path information was conveyed exclusively through
spatial mapping.
Table 3
Overall, there were no differences observed between
languages when focusing on the spatially mapped Path
information. This may be due to the generous use of
mapping to express Path information in both of the spoken
languages. Once the contribution of gesture was taken
into account, any discrepancies in the amount of path
information conveyed across languages vanished.
Manner information, on the other hand, was not
consistently conveyed across the three languages. For
English and Spanish speakers, it was most commonly
expressed by lexical means; however, for ASL users it was
expressed through spatial mapping (Table 4). Once gesture
was factored in, dissimilarities in the overall amount of
information across languages disappeared.
Table 4
What it all Means
Taken together, the analysis conducted by Taub,
Galvan, and Piñar seems to demonstrate that in spoken
languages a signi.cant amount of additional information
is conveyed through meaningful gesture. The contribution
of spatial mapping allows for a rough equalization of
the amount of information that is expressed among
languages. In addition, meaningful gestures not only
reinforce the information presented through speech, but
spatial mapping is also a modality for presenting new
information. Moreover, particular categories of conceptual
items appear universally in speech and meaningful gesture.
Spring 2005 Research at Gallaudet 7
There are patterns of conveying information that can be
observed when separating spatially mapped and lexical
elements within sign language, as well as those patterns
that are present when considering the gestural components
of spoken language. Taub, Galvan, and Piñar found that
ASL, Spanish, and English show a remarkable consistency
within each language regarding what type of conceptual
information is likely to be expressed through spatial
mapping.
Future Directions
Now that Taub, Galvan, and Piñar have found patterns
of conceptual information that are expressed through
meaningful gesture, the argument for considering
spatially-mapped information when evaluating the
information structure of languages is ampli.ed. The next
step in looking at co-speech gesture is to determine the
implications of meaningful gesture for models of language
acquisition and production. This is exactly what Taub,
Galvan, Piñar, and Mather are focusing on in their current
research efforts. With the support of another priority grant,
these researchers are collaborating on a project that aims
to investigate whether the quality of spatial mapping
in co-speech gesture can predict aptitude for learning
ASL spatial mapping. In particular, the researchers
are interested in whether speakers who show clear and
sophisticated spatial mapping in their gesture will have
an advantage for producing spatially mapped structures in
ASL.
References
Galvan, D, & Taub, S.F. (2004) “The encoding of motion
information in American Sign Language.” In R. Berman, D.
Slobin, S. Strömqvist, & L. Verhoeven (eds.) The Frog Story
Revisited. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Liddell, S. (2000). “Blended spaces and deixis in sign language
discourse.” In D. McNeill (ed.) Language and Gesture.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McNeill, D. (1992) Hand and Mind: What Gestures Reveal
About Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Mayer, M. (1969). Frog Where Are You? New York: Dial Press.
Slobin, D. I. (1996) “Two ways to travel: verbs of motion in
English and Spanish.” In Shibatani, M. & Thompson, S. A.
(eds.) Essays in semantics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Taub, S.F., Galvan, D., & Piñar, P. (2004, September-October).
The Encoding of Spatial Information in Speech/Gesture and
Signed Language. Paper presented at Theoretical Issues in
Sign Language Research (TISLR) 8, Barcelona, Spain.
Sara Taub, Dennis Galvan, and Pilar Piñar can be
contacted at Sarah.Taub@Gallaudet.edu, Dennis.
Galvan@Gallaudet.edu, and Pilar.Pinar@Gallaudet.edu.
Larry Siegel Cites U.S. Constitution
in Support of Deaf Children’s Right to
Communication
As Larry Siegel, the 2004-
2005 Powrie V. Doctor
Chair, nears the end of his stay at
Gallaudet, he continues to develop a
book about deaf and hard of hearing
children’s constitutional right to
communication and language.
He has also given numerous
presentations to explain the need for
a legal recognition of this right.
Although the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
contains many provisions intended
to ensure that children with disabilities receive the best
possible educational experience, Siegel says the law
overlooks or obscures key aspects of deaf children’s
communication and language needs. The problem, in his
view, is that IDEA is primarily a placement-driven policy
in which “least restrictive environment” is more often
interpreted to mean close to home or mainstreamed rather
than truly accommodating. When the appropriateness of a
placement for a deaf child is discussed in an Individualized
Education Program (IEP) meeting, there is no established
legal requirement that the student be assessed for
communication and language pro.ciency or provided
services needed to ensure access to instruction. Many deaf
children, in other words, are placed in settings in which
self-expression and access to information while at school
are in effect denied.
Siegel states, however, that the 1st and 14th
amendments of the U.S. Constitution have an important,
but little used applicability to deaf children. At a recent
Center for ASL/English Bilingual Education and Research
(CAEBER) conference held at Gallaudet, Siegel presented
his argument to an audience of leaders in bilingual
education and professionals from schools for the deaf from
around the country. He quoted the following from the First
Amendment: “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the
free exercise therof or abridging the freedom of speech.”
He stated that the word “speech” in the First Amendment
does not refer simply to the oral production of language,
but embraces the larger right to understand what is being
said and to express one’s thoughts, that is, the right to
the “free .ow of information.” The First Amendment, in
other words, can be taken to guarantee that children be
instructed in a language or communication modality that is
accessible to the child.
Larry Siegel
8 Research at Gallaudet Spring 2005
Gallaudet Research Institute
Gallaudet University
800 Florida Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20002-3660
Spring 2005 RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED
Non-Pro.t Organization
U.S. Postage
P A I D
Washington, D.C.
Permit No. 9452
Gallaudet University is an equal opportunity employer/educational
institution and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex,
national origin, religion, age, hearing status, disability, covered veteran
status, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, family
responsibilities, matriculation, political af.liation, source of income,
place of business or residence, pregnancy, childbirth, or any other
unlawful basis.
Siegel pointed out that the constitutional right to free
speech has many implications for children attending
schools in a democratic society. The discourse of school
is intended to give each child full access to academic and
intellectual growth in environments in which students
are free to inquire and evaluate the information and
views articulated by others. Schooling is also expected to
enable students to compete successfully in the economic
marketplace. These rights, along with the First Amendment
right of association, are available to all children in the
classroom only as long as channels of communication are
open. Siegel argued that many deaf children are denied this
right when schools refuse to provide interpreters, provide
unquali.ed interpreters, place students in communicationde
.cient environments, or otherwise deny students a fair
chance to develop language and learn using their primary
mode of communication.
Many deaf children, according to Siegel, are denied
their right to the “Equal Protection” of the law as
guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, which requires that
all people be treated the same under the law and that
distinctions be made only when there is a compelling
reason to do so. Siegel argued that deaf children have
repeatedly been denied this protection when denied access
to the programs and communication available to all other
children. Failure to provide a quali.ed interpreter or
access to a state school for the deaf, for example, denies
the deaf child what all other children take for granted:
access to the academic, social, and linguistic components
of an education. The landmark 1954 Brown v. The Board
of Education ruling stated that “…where the state has
undertaken to provide education [it] is a right which must
be made available to all on equal terms,” a legal standard
not adequately applied to deaf children.
Siegel also cited a number of court decisions that
upheld the right of hearing, speaking children to a
true bilingual education. The failure to provide similar
educational and bilingual opportunities to deaf children
represents an equally important failure to provide “equal
protection” of the law to this student population.


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