By ZEINAB NAJM
DHS teacher Lori Baker explained the project at the March 9 Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education meeting.
The project is aimed at teaching police departments basic sign language skills and how to recognize a deaf person.
“We decided that we have power over our environment and wanted to make a difference for all deaf and hard of hearing people,” Baker said.
A few weeks after the presentation at the board meeting, Dearborn Public Schools announced the current school year would be the last for their hearing impaired program.
The hearing impaired students currently in the Signing for Safety project will not be affected by the elimination of the program; however, there no new students will be allowed to join the program.
“I have five juniors and five sophomores and they all will be able to graduate through the program,” Baker said.
Baker explained that she uses news articles to find stories that will create a personal connection with her students.
During her search earlier this year she came across an article about a man in California who was Tased by police. The man used sign-language to communicate with police but had no success stopping the Tasting from happening.
This got Baker and the students interested in doing more research about similar incidents. They found four other case involving police assaulting deaf people because they didn’t t understand sign language.
On March 16, Detroit police officer Erik Peterson visited the students to learn about the sign-language culture and also teach them how to keep themselves safe.
“He was very impressed by the students,” Baker said.
Baker and her students want to see the communication between and the hearing impaired improve to make a safer environment.
In their research they learned about the program Signing for Safety and about the program founder, Colleen Langdon.
She traveled from Seattle to Florida, stopping at 54 police departments to teach officers basic emergency sign language and about the hearing impaired culture.
After collecting data and getting approval from their principal, students and Baker organized a three-day fundraiser at DHS. Students and staff donated $375 which was sent to Langdon in Seattle.
“Peterson told the students he would talk to his supervisor about bringing Langdon to Detroit,” Baker said.
Board members applauded and encouraged the project.
Trustee Mary Lane suggested the students and Baker present their information to the city and the police department.
“ I think you need to keep pushing as a group to do this presentation,” she said. “ I ’d love to have our city and state be deaf friendly. ”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)