26 May 2011
Governor Mitch Daniels
200 West Washington Street, #206
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2731
Dear Governor Daniels,
This letter serves to inform you of our grave concerns related to your recent appointments to the Board of Education at the Indiana School for the Deaf. We, Audism Free America (AFA), recognize that three of these appointments pose a serious threat not only Deaf children in your state, but also to other Deaf schools and the Deaf community across the US.
Audism Free America is a grassroots network of individuals committed to combating audism. Audism is attitudes and practices based on the assumption that behaving in the ways of those who speak and hear is desired and best. It produces a system of privilege, thus resulting in stigma, bias, discrimination, and prejudice—in overt or covert ways—against Deaf culture, American Sign Language, and Deaf people of all walks of life.
The recent appointment of three individuals translate into overt and covert actions of audism against the very students you are elected to protect and serve.
In New York State, we have recently protested to ensure that our Deaf schools are safe from budgetary cuts which would lead to school closures. Your appointments reek of a new strategy aimed at closing Deaf schools which are motivated primarily by budgetary concerns and secondarily by language oppression (i.e.,linguicism).
Last summer, the International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) passed “A New Era: Deaf Participation and Collaboration” document which:
-Calls upon all Nations to promote and support multilingual education, include sign languages of their Deaf citizens as legitimate languages, involve Deaf citizens in assisting parents of Deaf children, and to facilitate, enhance, and embrace their Deaf citizens’ participation in all government decision-making processes affecting all aspects of their lives…
Clearly, you are in violation of the ICED New Era Accord, we ask that you reconsider, given what you are learning in this process, whether you have faithfully executed this responsibility as governor.
We ask that you recognize Deaf people’s right to self-determination by actively designating more than their mere symbolic representation in institutions, which are established to educate Deaf people to be citizens. Additionally, please note that many state school boards appoint at least one non-voting student representative.
We ask that you assert support for the Bilingual Educational program established at the Indiana School for the Deaf, which ensures the basic human right of a fully natural and accessible language.
Additionally, we write to support the community’s demands of:
1. rescinding the appointments of Scott Rigney, Mary Ann Buhner, and Lucy Witte;
2. restructuring the ISD Board to comprise 51% Deaf Board members;
3. establishing transparent procedures for the selection of new Board members that include the input of school/community stakeholders and seek to appoint qualified persons who are dedicated to the mission, vision, and educational philosophies of ISD.
Let Freedom Roll!
Karen Christie for AFA