In a previous blog post, ‘Deaf Not Allowed To Teach?’, I shared an email from Ms. Kelly Laatsch, where she shared her experience of being refused interpreters during her teaching practicum at Central Michigan University.
Since that time, the university’s student newspaper has covered this story in a 2 part article series: Article 1 and Article 2. There is now also an update from Ms. Laatsch, which I have posted below, including another CMU administrator email address, for those who want to send in letters of support for Ms. Laatsch.
I personally am outraged at this situation. There is absolutely no justification for this denial of interpreters for Ms. Laatsch, on the part of the CMU administrators. Section 504 and ADA guarantees her the right to an interpreter if her cochlear implants are not enough for effective communication. Michigan State, prior to closing its Deaf Education program, had several deaf students graduate from its program, and went on to teach, without any issues.
Shame on you, Central Michigan University!
~ A Deaf Pundit
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 eight of sixteen weeks of student teaching. In preparation for this, I requested an interpreter months ago; however, Karen Edwards, Director of Student Teaching, Renee Papelian, Director of Professional Education & Assistant to the Dean, 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 are statements that Dr. Edwards pointed out in the Technical Standards including that I “understand and speak in English.” Dr. Edwards, Dr. Papelian, 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 was encouraged to use an interpreter half time, then for the rest of the semester I am encouraged to show that I can teach “independently” 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. I believe that as a Deaf student, being unable to use an interpreter in a required course (student teaching) is in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, PA 220, Article 1, Sec. 102 (PA 220 of 1976), and others.
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). It appears to me these staff members at Central Michigan University feel the Michigan Department of Education Technical Standards (policies) trumps the laws that entitle me an interpreter without consequences.
Last week, Dr. Edwards and Dr. Papelian told me that I have to go four to five weeks without an interpreter before the end of the semester to demonstrate my “independence” as a teacher or I may not pass student teaching. What I find odd is that right on top of the Technical Standards, it states that I must meet the standards “with or without reasonable accommodations.” Dr. Edwards and Dr. Papelian still believe I must go for some time without an interpreter.
They also told me that if I don’t pass student teaching I could still get a Bachelors of Science (non-teaching) degree from Central Michigan University. I told them I want to earn my Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education, the degree I have been pursing for the last four years. In addition to this, they suggested that I could also sign a waiver stating that I will never receive teaching certification in the state of Michigan. This baffled me. I wondered why anyone would even do this. I told them I would not do this.
Another issue I have been struggling with deals with interpreters. For the first four weeks of student teaching, I had the same main interpreter every day. Some days another interpreter will be present as a team. After the first four weeks when I decided that this Action Plan was not going to be successful, I told Ms. Rood that I needed an interpreter for the reminder of the semester. I also requested for that same interpreter to continue interpreting since she stated to me she is willing to and is available to be there. Ms. Rood denied this request and instead hired an interpreter agency. I cannot tell you who will be my interpreter every day because it is random. Usually there is one same interpreter who is there but sometimes she has to go to another job and a different interpreter would be there. Some days there are two interpreters all day. Some days there are two interpreters in which one or both would come and go throughout the day. Some days there is just one interpreter. Sometimes I would go without an interpreter from between thirty minutes to a few hours. I feel this is very inconsistent and it frustrates me. It is not good for my students especially since most of these students are at-risk and they very much need consistency. Also to make my student teaching experience successful I feel it is best to have one interpreter or a team of interpreters be there every day. I feel that this would also be “reasonable accommodation.”
As you can probably see, there has been a lot of discrimination, oppression, and violation against laws. Obviously, this is a time-sensitive matter because I am in the middle of my student teaching experience. If you need more information, please contact me. Anything you can do quickly would be greatly appreciated.
The CMU contacts:
Susie Pletcher-Rood, Director of Student Disability Services
Karen Edwards, Director of Student Teaching
Renee Papelian, Director of Professional Education & Assistant to the Dean
Tony Voisin, Dean of Students
Kathryn Koch, Interim Dean of College of Education and Human Services