Parents Complain Over EPISD Sign Language Interpreters

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POSTED: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 11:28am

UPDATED: Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 3:05pm

The El Paso Independent School board heard loudly from some disappointed parents and students on the frustration over the quality of teaching for the city's deaf students. 

When News Channel 9 met Terry Mayers Tuesday, she was driving towards Burges High school to pick up her son. Mark Mayers is deaf and like other deaf students in the El Paso area, he attends classes at Burges that include hearing students. To fill in the gaps, EPISD provides interpreters and sign language specialists. Mayers and apparently other parents feel those services are falling short. She decided to attend one of her sons classes at Burges and believes the sign language teacher couldn't communate well with her deaf students

"I realized that she did not understand what the kids wee signing to her, she was still going back to look for signs in the book, to me she is not someone who is qualified and she should have an interpreter in the class," Mayers said. 

At Tuesday night's board meeting, a man named Charles Johnson was waiting for his turn to speak. He supports what Terry Mayers said. He went through the deaf learning program at Burges, says many of the interpreters did a poor job, and when it came his time, he had the loudest voice in the room.

"You have set deaf students to fail," he said.  "The message of an education system is to meet a diversity of students and empower them to be usefeul member sof the community and you have failed."

He believes EPISD has failed many deaf students but Johnson himself has done well. He just got his education degree from UTEP and is  going to be a teacher. 
 

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First you say you are a recent Burges graduate, now you're saying you've been in the class with Mr. Johnson. Make up your mind. You know quite a lot about Mr. Johnson, so you have to be someone who has been in the program for a while. Where does it say that he came back to UTEP? How would you know sign language if you are a recent Burges Grad? How do you know about the deaf education postings. You are obviously an interpreter/educator, trying to get back at Mr. Johnson and rest of the students.

My reason for comment was to be supportive of Burges and the interpreters. The media painted a very one sided perspective. This report seemed very unfair at a time when our communities have lost respect for a district that has excellent schools, teachers, and staff that are dragged into the crossfire. One can't blame the students either, they love to "make a point" and "fight for their rights", but at some point they should be encouraged to be accountable too. It makes them better adults (smile)

I am a recent Burges Graduate and also a UTEP student; because I went to Burges I know the deaf students. I never said I knew sign, my sign is minimal. I've also been in classes where Mr. Johnson was a sub-teacher for the deaf and because of the Burges connection we have mutual acquaintances. However, I've witnessed his behavior and comments about deaf people at social events and on FB (which he took down). There is no grudge nor am I "trying to get back at Mr. Johnson. . ." Why so defensive?

Con't...I've chosen not to participate in group work in class with deaf students because of their poor work ethic (there ARE some exceptions) and I would think, Mr. Johnson should think twice about throwing stones when he lacks the ability to write such an eloquent speech on his own. If anyone looks closely, they'd notice the majority of the parents present lack the sign language skills to communicate with their own children. Isn't that calling the kettle black?

The news report is inaccurate as well, he was defending those students, past and present, they would always come to him for help. He has seen injustice as a student and knew what to do, deaf ed administrators knew not to mess with him or his family since they required the best for him and willing to fight, but it wasn't fair for them to neglect the needs of others.

"Mr. Johnson should think twice about throwing stones when he lacks the ability to write such an eloquent speech on his own."

How would you know? He graduated from Burges, inducted in NHS, was one of top 10 Seniors, and graduated from UTEP! Have you taken a class with him before? He was in advanced placement classes as well.

(1) As a matter of fact, yes. I have been in class with Mr. Johnson and have seen his writing. I've also seen his behavior and work ethic. Many times HE has talked bad about deaf students and how "dumb, low, and basic" they are. Why doesn't he become a teacher of the deaf? I've seen several postings in the past 16 months in the EPISD website for Deaf Education. I have also seen the students he was in the news segment with. It is awesome that he wants to advocate for the deaf but tell it like it

(2) like it is. Those students are not being honest.
NHS, Top 10, and AP classes means nothing when you can't compete in college with other students of that caliber and FINALLY graduate only after coming back to UTEP (at a less than 4.0) However, just as he is "defending students that come to him for help" it is important that he and the other parent be TRUTHFUL about allegations that they go public with. Eventually it may come back to bite them in the rear. Especially by being so vocal.

Con't...They are seeking a scapegoat for their irresponsible and lazy performance in the classroom. Parents that are trying to compensate for their shortcomings are now trying to blame a "stumbling" school district because they have to be and make their child accountable. I've seen many interpreters in my classes refer to a sign language dictionary (usually when they have low level students) because there are various situations where it is needed; this does not mean they are inadequate signers.

The allegations brought forth by current and former deaf students at Burges/RDSPD are far from the complete truth. I am a recent Burges graduate and was in classes with some of the students in your broadcast (in middle school too). I have watched them completely ignore the interpreter and fail to attend tutoring recommended by the teacher. What this is, is a situation where seniors who are failing (first time and repeat courses) are now in jeopardy of not graduating.

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