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Unspoken words

Tessarae Thompson, Scott High School
Scott High School students (from left) Ashley, Michael and Matthew Johnson have a conversation using sign language. Several students at the school would like to start a sign language class or club to learn to converse with their deaf and mute classmates.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Schools offer many electives for students: art, music, theater and more. There are some courses that are required, though, like English, science, math, history and even Spanish.

Yes, Spanish. For a student in high school to receive his or her diploma, a foreign language is imperative.

Some schools have a larger variety of foreign language courses students can sign up for, such as French, German and Latin. However, some students say that another choice should be offered too: sign language.

"Sign language is like any other form of speech, except you speak with your hands instead of your mouth. To me, it is just as necessary as Spanish or French, if not more," said Scott High School freshman Alyssa Smith.

Smith is a member of the school's Partners Club, which helps special needs students socialize around school. She joined at the beginning of the year and is already showing eruditeness from watching the club's deaf and mute members.

Sign language can be of vital importance to anyone who wishes to obtain an occupation in the fields of education, government, health, recreation, social services and therapy. It is also frequently used in conference and courtroom settings.

Some jobs don't require very much sign language or any at all, but it is still an important skill. How wonderful would it be to talk to someone who can't speak or hear? It would make that person feel more invited, more respected.

The communication barrier is a problem for some students at Scott. Freshman Katie Clendenen said, "When some of my best friends bring their [deaf or mute] partner to me, I feel like I'm just waving and smiling the whole time due to my lack of knowledge in the art of signing."

Other students at Scott feel the same. They believe creating a sign language class will decrease these awkward moments between partner and helper.

If the program were started, then students could have a chance to communicate with their deaf and mute classmates without confusion. This issue of communication detracts from the excitement of Partners Club for some students. They find it pointless to have a partner if they can't converse with him or her.

"If we can't talk to them, then we are pretty much just walking them around the school. And when people ask us what he's signing, we don't know what to tell him," said junior Bethany Buckner.

She suggested that if sign language couldn't be made into a class, then it could be a club. A few students hope to begin such a club at Scott. In it, students will be taught simple words that are used in everyday language.

One advocate for the club is freshman Bretta Kuhn. "Having a signing club would be a great addition to [Partner's Club]. If students learn the way that some of the children in the group were taught, then less confusion would occur."

Krista Woods is an interpreter and aide at Scott. She is an advocate for a sign language club or class.

"As my job is to interpret the signing of some of my students, I sometimes am overwhelmed by how many kids ask me what the students are signing," she said. "If a class were made entirely for the purpose of signing, it would be beneficial to everyone."

One of Woods' students is her brother, Tyler.

"My brother is a very demanding student," she said. "He's always making jokes and calling people funny names, but not many people can understand what he is saying."Whether the club will be created or not is still undecided, but many students are willing to do whatever is needed to create it. Learning how to talk to people who are deaf and mute, and maybe even teaching others how to do it, will help everyone who participates.


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