The following is a summary of the interview conducted by Davin Tanabe with Ms. Naquin, teacher of the hearing-impared at Pearl City High School.
I went to the main office to find Ms. Naquin (pronounced na'kan, rhymes with van) to talk to her about some issues of hearing-impared education.
I first asked her how students at the school, hearing-impared and hearing-able alike, interacted with each other. Students at public schools can sometimes be harsh, so I was surprised to find out that there is actually an effort made to talk to each other; however, this effort is usually fruitless as the language barrier interferes. Some hearing-able people try harder than others, and there are some hearing-impared people that make friends.
The daily schedule of a hearing-impared student varies, depending on various factors: career goals, signing skills, knowledge of the English language, and level of "deafness." Most often, hearing-IMPARED but not completely deaf students will go to normal classes and receive a low amount of specialized classes. Normal, mainstream classes usually comprise a small percentage of a deaf student's day, and even at that, a sign-language interpreter will normally accompany a student that can not hear.
A hearing-impared student will tend to focus more on the English language than would a hearing-able student -- vocabulary and translating from English to sign language are some examples. "English is almost like a second language to them," Ms. Naquin comments.
Although hearing-impared students are encouraged to join extra-curricular activities, the fact that they can't hear limits their options. Usually, a deaf student will participate in a sport, if any extra-curricular activity. There are also additional extra-curricular activities designed specifically for deaf students, as deaf students usually have a harder time in extra-curricular activities that require such actions as speech. One student notably participated in a mock trial once, an accomplishment Ms. Naquin highly praised.
As for the big question of whether hearing-impared students should be included in mainstream schooling or should instead be segregated, she believes that such a decision is highly dependent on the child. "Both schools have a lot to offer for different children." She believes that PCHS has more to offer for a hearing-impared student; however, she made it very clear that MORE does not neccessarily equal BETTER. A hearing-impared student would naturally feel more comfortable in a setting surrounded by other people who can't hear; this setting is very hard to achieve in a normal school, and in this way, regular schools are restricting because not every organization in a regular school may be suitable for a hearing-impared student. However, although a setting such as PCHS may not be as comfortable as a specialized school, it is a setting that hearing-impared students are used to. Most often, a hearing-impared person is the only deaf person in a family, and she does not recall this to ever pose a major problem for a student. To her students, that's just how life is.
The best way for parents to make the decision of where to send their children, according to Ms. Naquin, is to really LOOK at the school: to visit schools, to meet the teachers, to talk to the teachers. The most crucial factor determining this would be where the student feels comfortable, of course. In her opinion, it would not be good if a student is not comfortable in his/her surroundings.
Inclusion offers the benefits of more class choices: more vocational choices and more sciences, perhaps. Sergregation offers barrier-free communication. Some teachers at PCHS are still not comfortable around hearing-impared students; they have no idea how to act around them. Ms. Naquin would then counsel these teachers and make them feel better around their hearing-impared students. This wouldn't happen at a school specifically geared for the deaf. Students would be able to converse with each other no matter who the student, and students could talk to every teacher.
As a final closing point, she also talked about a possible law the legislature is considering. This law would force hearing-impared students to be incoroporated into the main schooling system. She felt that this was not a complete solution, as mainstream schooling is only effective for a certain portion of the deaf community.