I recently received an email from a woman named Kelly Laatsch. A friend had referred her to me, asking that I support her in her civil rights issue. Her story is quite astounding, and so I am going to share her story here, in her own words.
I am a Deaf student at Central Michigan University, currently student teaching and in place to graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education in May 2012. I was provided sign language interpreters for my courses including education courses at Central Michigan University for the last four years.
Currently I am in week two of sixteen weeks of student teaching. In preparation for this, I requested an interpreter months ago; however, Karen Edwards, Director of Student Teaching and Susie Rood, Director of Student Disability Services stated that I do have the right to an interpreter, but if I use an interpreter I may not pass my student teaching requirements based on Michigan Department of Education Teaching Technical Standards. There is a statement that Dr. Edwards pointed out in the Technical Standards that states that I must “understand and speak in English.” Dr. Edwards and Ms. Rood created an Action Plan to “wean” me off from using an interpreter to “help” me become “more independent” (first two weeks I was able to use an interpreter full time, following two weeks I can only use an interpreter half time, then for the rest of the semester I need to show that I can teach without an interpreter). I have cochlear implants and can speak for myself and hear fairly well; however, I still need an interpreter for things I miss
Dr. Edwards and Ms. Rood let me know that I can use a FM System and that this would not strongly affect whether or not I pass student teaching. They may be thinking that using an FM System still allows me to use my own “body and mind” to show how effective I am as a teacher (and that using an interpreter makes me less effective as a teacher). Even with my cochlear implants and with an FM System, I am still not going to be able to effectively communicate with the students, parents, and other teachers as well as I could with an interpreter.
I have filed a complaint (in October 2011) against Central Michigan University through Office of Civil Rights. They are still processing my case (may take up to 180 days); however, so far it does not look good. It appears to me they feel the Michigan Department of Education Technical Standards (policies) trumps the laws that entitle me an interpreter without consequences.
Obviously, this is a time-sensitive matter because I am now student teaching. For the next two weeks I am “encouraged” to only have an interpreter with me half of the time. Then in two weeks I am “encouraged” to not have an interpreter or I may not pass because of my use of an interpreter.
Ms. Laatsch, in the close of her email to me, asked for letters of support for her, to the CMU administrators and enclosed their information. So, please feel free to contact these individuals and let them know how you feel about this. Remember, please do try to keep it civil in your emails!