Justice Is Also Deaf

On the weekend of May 21st-May 24th, students from The Texas School for the Deaf, the Indiana Schools for the Deaf, Maryland School for the Deaf, Model Secondary School for the Deaf, Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and American School for the Deaf met at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC to participate in the Justice Is Also Deaf simulated congressional hearings.

The simulated congressional hearings consist of presentations by middle school and high school students as constitutional experts before a panel of three judges, serving as the “congressional committee.”  The students focused on three unit topics from the We The People: The Citizen & the Constitution level II textbook: Units I, V, and VI.

The testimony began with a four-minute formal presentation by one or more students from the unit group. The presentations were followed by a ten-minute question and answer period in which judges discussed the content of the material to test the students’ abilities to understand and apply constitutional knowledge.

All the presentations were conducted in American Sign Language.

Mr. Greg Hlibok was the keynote presenter. Mr. Hlibok is an attorney and the Chief of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Disability Rights Office. His work involves rulemaking proceedings concerning Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) and telecommunications access for people with disabilities.

In March 1988, Gallaudet University experienced a monumental and historical event that led to the appointment of the university’s first deaf president, I. King Jordan. As a student at Gallaudet then, Mr. Hilbok was a leader among thousands seeking to install Gallaudet’s first deaf president. Mr. Hilbok understands what it means to have self-determination and what it means to empower deaf and hard of hearing people everywhere.

Mr. Hlibok participated as a panel judge along with, Robert Mather, an attorney at the Department of Justice, Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, Andrew Phillips, attorney at the National Association for the Deaf, Suzy Rosen Singleton, Office of Ombuds at Gallaudet University, Michael Stein, partner at Stein and Vargas, David Lupi-Sher, the Section Chief, Individual Publication Branch, IRS, David Nelson, President of the DC Association of the Deaf, Christian Wojnar, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor and Talila Lewis, paralegal for the DC government and Founder of HEARD, Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf.

In the afternoon, five of the judges: Robert Mather, Andrew Phillips, Suzy Rosen Singeton, Michael Stein and David Nelson engaged with students with a question and answer panel in an informal discussion about law, politics, education and advocacy for and by the Deaf.

We are grateful for the valuable time, wisdom, and knowledge the judges shared with the students.

In the evening the students had a great time rock climbing and trying the rope course at the Field House Gym on the Gallaudet campus.

Monday morning, the students went for a tour of Washington DC to visit the Lincoln memorial, Washington Monument, the White House and take photos of the historical sites.

In the evening, the President of Gallaudet, Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz shared remarks with the students about the value and importance of active and engaged citizenship.

We ended the weekend with a swim in the Gallaudet pool and a farewell party for everyone at the student activity center.

Above and Below: Photo montage from Justice Is Also Deaf / We the People simulated congressional hearings at Gallaudet University, May 21 – May 24, 2011. Like us on Facebook! Twitter too!

Justice Is Also Deaf: Pilot Program
Simulated Congressional Hearings At Gallaudet
May 21 – May 24, 2011!

Civication, Inc. and the Center for Civic Education will hold a We the People pilot presentation May 21-May 24 at Gallaudet University similar to the one held April 30–May 2, 2011, in Washington D.C., but on a smaller scale. Our program is known as Justice Is Also Deaf and will be presented in American Sign Language.

The We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution National Finals is the annual culminating event of the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution high school program. Classes qualify for this national championship by competing in their congressional districts and placing first in their state competitions.

The competition takes the form of simulated congressional hearings. During the hearings, students testify as constitutional experts before panels of judges acting as a congressional committee. The 72 judges represent each state in the nation, Washington D.C. and a variety of professional fields.

Each class in the competition is divided into six groups, one group for each of the six units of the We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution high school textbook. The testimony begins with a formal presentation by one or more students from one of the unit groups. The presentation is followed by a period of questioning during which judges probe students for their depth of understanding and their ability to apply constitutional knowledge. The format provides students an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of constitutional principles while providing judges with an excellent means of assessing students’ knowledge and their application of this knowledge to constitutional issues.

While in Washington D.C., students will have the opportunity to tour our nation’s capital and meet with members of Congress and other important dignitaries. Travel, lodging, and tour arrangements for students are made by WorldStrides. The Center for Civic Education organizes all other aspects of the national finals.

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On May 6, 1914, Alphonso Smith made a speech on Presentation Day at Gallaudet University where he said:

America does mean opportunity. It stands for justice, not charity. This college, and this college alone stands for the principle that a limitation upon one faculty shall not be a limitation upon all faculties, but rather a challenge to all faculties. It [Gallaudet University] stands for the principle that the men and women who enter here shall see before them the same shining goal that beckons to the men and women who enter other colleges. It stands for the principle that the human mind, if compassed by eternal silence, shall be compassed also by eternal truth.

In March of 1988, the students at Gallaudet University protested the lack of Deaf leadership and demanded a Deaf President, I. King Jordan. This revolution transformed the Deaf community and demonstrated to the world that Deaf citizens can be political leaders in positions of power. President I. King Jordan said, “We know that Deaf people can do anything hearing people can do except hear.” Democracy is a dialogue of fundamental Constitutional principles; an on-going market place of ideas, for the most part, a spoken dialogue not accessible to the Deaf and hard-of-hearing population. The ideals of democracy are best served when every member, including linguistic minorities such as the Deaf population, can contribute to the shaping of policies and values by informed, responsible and effective participation in the political process. The iconic image of Lady Justice blindfolded and holding the scales of justice conveys the notion that justice is blind; that under the eyes of the law we are all treated equally regardless of the color of our skin, religion, national origin or language. Unfortunately, our history is full of examples that show all too clearly that justice is often denied to politically, socially, economically, and linguistically marginalized populations. In many respects, Deaf culture is similar to an immigrant culture because of language barriers and lack of social integration. But unlike an immigrant population, most Deaf people cannot communicate using spoken English. American Sign Language, a visual language without a written component, is the natural language for most culturally Deaf individuals. This fundamental linguistic difference leaves too many Deaf Americans out of the political debate.

Our democracy insists on our freedom, and our freedom depends on the free flow of information, on the exchange of thoughts through language. The need to access information, to have our say, to appreciate what others think and communicate, is central to our democracy and to our growth as individuals. — Lawrence Siegel, from his book, The Human Right to Language.

We believe access to language is an inalienable human right. Our national project, Justice Is Also Deaf, supports a linguistic minority by creating learning opportunities for Deaf students to fully participate in the civic community by introducing and coordinating at each state residential school for the Deaf, the national standard of civic programs called, We The People: The Citizen and the Constitution. The We The People curriculum develops critical thinking skills and teaches the history and foundations of American Constitutional values. Our vision includes facilitating an on-going dialogue and creating collaboration among educators, administrators and students at all the schools for the Deaf with an ASL/English bilingual, bicultural approach. The We The People curriculum teaches more than American history, more than Constitutional values, more than the ideals of representative democracy. The We The People curriculum helps develop poise, self-confidence, and the ability to express well-reasoned arguments in a civil manner, critical thinking skills, and how to enjoy the process of what it means to be an American. Meaningful access to language is critical for the development of the mind and connects us to people and ideas. Approximately ninety percent of Deaf children are born to hearing parents. Therefore, schools for the Deaf play a vital role partnering with families to teach visually accessible language and allow Deaf culture to thrive. Justice Is Also Deaf bridges the linguistic gap. Imagine well-informed people who possess critical thinking skills and are able to engage with accuracy and thoughtful opinions regarding complicated public policy issues that affect each of our lives. Civication is working toward a day when there is a free and open exchange of ideas between the Deaf community and the non-deaf community and all people will have opportunities for meaningful participation in the public and civil discourse regarding issues of personal and political importance. Civication, Inc. is excited about energizing a new generation of Deaf students starting in elementary school to learn about America’s founding documents and engaging in the democratic exchange of ideas. Representative democracy thrives in an atmosphere of the free exchange of ideas and opinions. America’s strength lies in the diversity of viewpoints; one size does not fit all, this is especially true in the United States where we have such a rich variety of cultures, languages and traditions. We are a people whose strength lies in our differences and our ability to learn from each other. The right to vote and have a voice in public policies that affect us is a fundamental requirement for freedom, justice and peace to prevail. Violence, war, and bombs are also ways to affect change or more likely end any possibility to find peace. Our hope for Justice Is Also Deaf is to support opportunities to communicate across cultures and languages and what better way to meet this goal than to invite Deaf students to the political dialogue because, who better understands the important of language inclusion and accessibility than a member of a linguistic minority? My experience as a mother of a Deaf child showed me undeniably the importance of language and more precisely how language is intimately connected with culture. Just as there is no one universally agreed upon language for all hearing people, there is no universal language for Deaf people. We do not learn language in a vacuum, we are social beings and our mode of communication is tied to our culture.

Justice Is Also Deaf goes to New England

On January 26th, 2011, Civication and the Director of the We The People program at the Center for Civic Education, Robert Leming, will meet with educators and administrators from New England Schools for the Deaf to facilitate a dialogue about advocacy for and by the deaf with our program, Justice Is Also Deaf at the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, Connecticut. The American School for the Deaf was founded in 1817 and is the oldest school for the Deaf in the United States and the oldest special education institute in the Western Hemisphere. We thank Ed Peltier for his hospitality and generosity to host this meeting.

Educators and administrators represented at the meeting are scheduled to be:

Ed Peltier, Superintendent at the American School for the Deaf, Conrad Strack, M.S. Ed., Public School Outreach Consultant, Maine Educational Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MECDHH), Debra Arles, Executive Director, St. Joseph’s School for the Deaf, Janet Dickinson, Austine School (Vermont), Michael Marchetti, Willie Ross School for the Deaf, Martin P. Keller, Jr., Ed.S. High School Principal and Social studies teachers, Mr. Michael Kennedy, New York School for the Deaf, Fanwood in White Plains, and Peter L. Bailey, Associate Executive Director, The Learning Center for the Deaf.

These New England schools for the Deaf are part of the second wave of schools in our program, Justice Is Also Deaf. The students in the pilot schools, MSD, TSD, FSDB, VSDB, ISD are learning the We The People curriculum and will compete in the nation’s first We The People congressional hearings entirely in American Sign Language (ASL) at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

Civication and the Center for Civic Education are thrilled to grow this exciting and innovative national program and grateful for the delightful enthusiasm from everyone involved. Each year, Civication will add more and more schools for the Deaf and also include regional day programs for Deaf and Hard of hearing students.

Graduates from our program, Justice Is Also Deaf, will gain confidence, poise and the ability to critically think and understand the relevance of their voice in shaping public policy. The program will foster opportunities for students to learn about the dynamics of self-government and moreover, we hope graduates, if they so desire, run and get elected to public office at the local, state and federal level and be active members of the political process.

As part of the Justice Is Also Deaf program, Civication, Inc. in partnership with the Center for Civication, invited teachers from the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD), the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind (FSDB), the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (VSDB) and the Maryland School for the Deaf (MSD) to observe the We The People State Finals in their respective states. On Monday, February 22, 2010, three educators from the Maryland School for the Deaf attended the High School We The People State Finals in Annapolis, Maryland. Here is what Christopher Kaftan, Director of Curriculum and Instruction had to say: After witnessing the Maryland state finals and seeing the teams compete with passion, I could envision our school sitting at the table defending their stance on a governmental concept that is close to their heart. After the competition, I told Dvorah and Ken that they could count on us to participate, and I’m committed to seeing MSD participate in both the Maryland state competition as well as the national competition for deaf and hard of hearing students. The possibilities are limitless! On December 14, 2009, three teachers, Anne Duke-Shaw, Larry Smith and MeMe Kerr from the Texas School for the Deaf observed the state-level simulated congressional hearing competition with high school students from around the state of Texas at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas. Two American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters accompanied the teachers as they observed the different schools compete. According to the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing “interpreting is the cultural and linguistic transmission of a message from ASL to spoken English, or vice versa and an ASL interpreter must faithfully transmit the spirit and content of the speakers.” Anne Duke-Shaw had this to say about her experience:

Thank you so much for including Meme Kerr, Larry Smith and me as observers in last Saturday’s We the People State Competition in the Capitol.  It was incredibly inspiring to see high school students intelligently discussing the Constitution, amendments, cases, Supreme court decisions and Supreme Court justices in opening remarks and in answer to the questions by the judges.

We have a lot to consider as we plan for incorporating We the People into our Middle School and High School program.  I’ve already had a discussion with Terry Robbins, the Middle School principal, regarding a plan to connect with other Deaf schools next year to develop some type of inaugural competition similar to our annual “Battle of the Books”.  We in middle school want to support our students as they move to high school and, hopefully, higher level We the People competitions.

On January, 8th, 2010, two middle school teachers, Julie McDonald and Terri Samson, from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind attended the We The People State Finals in Orlando, Florida. Both teachers were hearing and did not require the services of an ASL interpreter to make the days’ event accessible. However, they had this to say about how this competition may best accommodate students who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing:

Thank you very much for inviting us to come and observe the We The People Competition. We both really enjoyed watching the students of various schools competing. We liked seeing the different levels of preparation and especially enjoyed the question and answer period with the judges. It was interesting to see the different interpretations students and schools took and the application of court cases and current events that they use to support their opinions. With the new Florida standards regarding Social Studies, this new program would be great to incorporate into our curriculum. We would definitely look forward to seeing this program translated into an ASL/sign language format in order to ensure consistency of signs used across the country.

On March 12th and 13th we invited three teachers, Marianne Dunham, Sharon Ernest and Debbie Oldman-Brown, from the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind to observe the 2010 Virginia We The People State Finals for middle school at the United States Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia.

Justice Is Also Deaf Summer Workshop at James Madison’s Montpelier August 11th-14th 2010

Civication, Inc. was honored to partner with The Center for Civic Education, and Montpelier Foundation, Inc. to offer a fun and educational professional development seminar to teach the We the People curriculum and engage in round table discussions among educators from the Maryland School for the Deaf (MSD), Texas School for the Deaf (TSD), the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind (FSDB), the Indiana School for the Deaf (ISD), the American School for the Deaf (ASD), and the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (VSDB). The experience was an incredible educational opportunity relative to moving forward with the Justice Is Also Deaf national project including simulated congressional hearings in American Sign Language. These great schools represent our pilot program for Justice Is Also Deaf. Ken and Dvorah welcomed the Educators for the Deaf: John Borkowski and Jeff King (ISD), Anne Duke Shaw, Karl Hummel and MeMe Kerr (TSD), Marianne Dunham and Deborah Oldman-Brown (VSDB), Kathy Falco (ASD), Dena Hackett, Julie McDonald, and Bette Rosenthal (FSDB) and Christopher Kaftan and Chris Reineck (MSD), mentors: Dennis Borgerding (VA), Kyleen Dobbs (TX), Eugene Ebersole (MD), and Collin Gruver (IN), Scholar: Professor Hank Chambers, State Coordinators: Kelly Carmichael (VA), Marie Taylor-Thoma (MD), and Annette Boyd-Pitts (FL) and Staff: Bob Leming, Director: We The People, Erin Breese, Nicole Fernandez, Doug Seelig and Susan Simpson. James Madison is known as the father of our Constitution often spoke about a “New Science of Politics”. Madison’s talents and dreams help shape the framework for an experiment in self-government. In keeping with that proud tradition of creating a ‘New Science of politics”, we shared our vision of Justice Is Also Deaf as advocacy by the Deaf for the Deaf for economic, political and social influence in creating and strengthening our democratic process by eliminating barriers to communication and building bridges between languages and culture for inclusion. On the first day of the workshop, Christopher Kaftan, the Director of Curriculum at the Maryland School for the Deaf, gave an informative presentation on Deaf Culture, History and American Sign Language. Robert Leming, the Director of the We The People program, spoke about the importance of government and the Fourth Amendment. This lively lecture was interpreted in ASL and educators engaged in an in-depth discussion. Susan Simpson, Program Manager, at the Center for the Constitution, led a tour of the Montpelier Mansion and Mark A. Tricket, Ph.D., Field Director, James Madison’s Montpelier led an archaeology walking tour. Hank Chambers, Professor of Law, University of Richmond, gave a lecture on the First Amendment and connected the concept of the right to speech to the right of language and the government’s role in providing accommodations for Deaf students. The participants worked together as a large group and were also working in three separate smaller groups on the topic of First and Fourth Amendment Rights to present a showcase simulated congressional hearings.

The Prepared Congressional Hearing Question:

James Madison stated in Federalist #51, “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” According to James Madison and other founders, what are the philosophical foundations of American constitutional government? Why have First and Fourth Amendment rights been viewed as essential to the functioning of a constitutional government and a free society?

In what ways have First Amendment rights been of particular importance to women and minorities?

Although First and Fourth Amendment rights are considered essential in a constitutional democracy, it is sometimes argued that these rights must be limited. Under what circumstances, if any, do you think limitations are justified?

Should students have the same First and Fourth Amendment rights in public schools as they do at home or in their community? Why or why not?

We experimented with how to facilitate interpretation of the simulated hearings. Two of the simulated congressional hearings were conducted in ASL and interpreted into English for the non-deaf participants. One hearing was done in ASL without interpreters. We created three teams: Team Madison with Dennis Borgerding as the mentor teacher working with Marianne Dunham, Christopher Kaftan, MeMe Kerr and Julie McDonald, Team Jefferson with Kyleen Dobbs as the mentor teacher working John Borkowski, Kathy Falco, Anne Duke-Shaw and Dena Hackett and Team Marshall with Collin Gruver and Eugene Ebersole as mentor teachers working with Bette Rosenthal, Christopher Reineck, Karl Hummel, Jeff King and Deborah Oldman-Brown. Although all the educators from the schools for the Deaf were fluent in ASL, the addition of an interpreter seemed to inhibit the free flow of information. Afterward, the group agreed that the hearing done exclusively in ASL without the interpreter was the most powerful and best for Deaf students because communication was not dependent on an interpreter. Interpreting is both an art and science and some ideas and concepts in ASL are not easily translated into English because ASL is such a rich visual language and shares no grammatical similarities with English. The deaf educators who were not Deaf could hear the interpreter voicing their visual language and could correct words or ideas not expressed accurately; this is not an option for the Deaf. Another observation was that on occasion it was difficult for the interpreters to keep the English spoken word in time with ASL causing the spoken word and the sign to be out of synchronization. This issue is familiar to the nature of interpretation. After observing all three teams in action, the educators decided the best way to conduct the simulated congressional hearings during the competition between the schools for the Deaf would be to use CART. The Michigan Coalition for Deaf and Hard of Hearing describes the  term ‘CART’ as Communication Access Realtime Translation or Computer Aided Real–Time Captioning (both titles describe the same service). Using stenographic machines and computer software, CART providers translate the spoken word into the written word nearly as fast as people can talk, hence the “realtime” tag. For our purposes, the interpreter works with the CART provider and interprets ASL to spoken English and the words are displayed on a laptop computer, monitor, or large screen. CART offers a better chance of to achieve a word–for–word text of spoken content.   (www.michdhh.org).

Christopher Kaftan from MSD has this to say,

The Justice is also Deaf workshop at Montpelier provided educators from six different states an opportunity to work together on fostering an understanding of the We The People curriculum, the simulated Congressional hearings, and learn how we could create a similar program for deaf and hard of hearing students across the nation.

We created opportunities for collaboration, research, networking, and went back to our respective schools full of ideas and looking forward to the national competition next spring.

Through our own observations of the simulated Congressional hearings, we found it to be more efficient to have the hearing presented fully in ASL because of the seamless flow of information between the panelists and the judges.

I served as a judge for the ASL-only hearing and I found it much easier to have meaningful dialogue with the panelists instead of waiting for an ASL-to-English translation from the interpreters.

The CART technology would be efficient for the audience members, especially families to follow the dialogue between the participants in the hearings.

Next spring we plan to invite all the schools in the pilot program to Washington, DC to participate in simulated congressional hearings conducted in ASL. The students and judges will all be fluent in ASL .We are excited about moving forward and adding more schools to the Justice Is Also Deaf program. Justice may be blind, but it is also Deaf. In this context, Deaf represents not the inability to hear, but the ability to communicate in a visual manner. — Dvorah Ben-Moshe, President For more information about the Deaf community click on the links below:www.clercenter.gallaudet.edu The Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center at Gallaudet University provides information, training, and technical assistance for parents and professionals to meet the needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Our mission is to improve the quality of education afforded to deaf and hard of hearing students from birth to age 21 throughout the United States. www.aslinfo.com This website focuses on ASL, Interpreting and deaf related information. www.nad.org NAD is a non-profit organization designed to empower Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals.


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