By Lemor Abrams

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Students held a silent protest outside Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento on Thursday over the proposed slashing of a sign language program.

They signed the words, “Love ASL” and held posters reading, “Save ASL.”

“People take for granted their hearing, their speech,” one student said.

“I’m not very good at any other language,” another said.

But American Sign Language at Hiram Johnson is in jeopardy. The school says it needs to get rid of the program in an attempt to balance the budget.

A district spokesman sent CBS13 a statement reading in part, “The central issue is how to maximize resources in ways that ensure all students have an equal opportunity to graduate with the greatest number of postsecondary choices from the widest array of options.”

“The principal is phasing out ASL1 because he wants only AP classes, and French and Spanish,” said Connie Steinman.

Steinman doesn’t just teach the sign language courses at Hiram Johnson. She wrote the curriculum two decades ago.

“Why are they doing this .. they serve a lot teacher of diverse people here,” she said.

One of those students is Joshua Sellards. He’s gathering his classmates’ signatures to get the principal to keep sign language. He says the class allows them to do more than check a box on their high school transcripts.

“When I became deaf around in elementary school, I didn’t know what deaf was, until I came to Hiram,” he said.

ASL courses may not be a legal requirement in California public schools, but state law says schools must accommodate special-needs students.

“If you have a child that needs coursework with regards to sign language because of their special needs, the school district has to provide for that, and if they don’t they’re required to pay for it to be provided by someone else possibly even a third party outside the school district,” said Civil Rights Attorney Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute.

A district spokesman says the school is “exploring creative ways” to provide students with access to other ASL programs.

In the meantime, students are planning another protest. Next time, outside the principal’s office.


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