The student news site of Oakton High School

Oakton Outlook

The student news site of Oakton High School

Oakton Outlook

The student news site of Oakton High School

Oakton Outlook

ASL should be offered at all FCPS High Schools

   The requirements that Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) demands for its standard and advanced diplomas are challenging to meet without equitable course offerings. To graduate with an advanced diploma, a student must take one world language for a total of three language credits, or be introduced to two separate world languages for a total of four world language credits. And to graduate with a standard diploma a student must take two credits in either a world language, fine art, or career and technical education course. These are not fair requirements to set without an adequate offering of world language courses in each FCPS high school.

   According to the course catalog available on the FCPS website, only 6 of the 28 high schools in FCPS offer American Sign Language (ASL). This course finds some of the most significant success with students with disabilities and is not fairly accessible. Because there are not enough classes to teach the abundance of students who want to take this course, a superfluity of students become waitlisted.

   FCPS student, Monica Wong, explains the struggle of being waitlisted for this course, “I was waitlisted because the class was super popular and didn’t have enough teachers for the students who wanted to take it. So I unfortunately didn’t end up taking ASL until the following year.”

   Students who remain on the waitlist to take this course as an academy class may lose the opportunity to access an advanced diploma. These students will likely struggle to comprehend

the phonological aspects of a different foreign language, and become forced to take this motor centered course online to access an advanced diploma. These demands go against the spirit of the Americans With Disability Act (ADA), which

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is a federally issued law put in place to protect these students.

   Fairfax Academy ASL teacher Cassandra Nesbitt shares these ruminations. We shuttle students from other base schools to the Academy when their school doesn’t offer ASL. We currently have 11 classes of ASL beginning with level 1 and ending at level 4. Our waitlist is typically about 50-75 students long, so it’s important to register with your counselor early.” Nesbitt also says, “ASL offers students with disabilities a chance to succeed in taking a world language. Many students with dyslexia often take ASL since there is no reading and writing component to the language.”

   This brings up a vital question– why is FCPS failing to accommodate its students by not providing equitable course offerings? 

   Along with this course providing great enrichment for students with learning differences, it’s also known to be a very fun and positive learning environment.   

   “I would 100% recommend ASL to other students!” ASL student Sierra Rossman (’24) said. “It has been such a fun and informative class. Especially because I made a ton of friends in the program, ASL is the thing I look forward to every other day! I definitely think FCPS could do a better job advertising and inviting students to take the course.”

   The Office of Communication and Community Relations on the FCPS website published in May of 2023 explained that “Nearly 86% of the [new] Approved Budget is targeted at instruction, including $15.0 million to support the implementation of the Equitable Access to Literacy Plan.”  Changes are being made to equitably offer world languages to all FCPS students according to the FY 2024 Approved Budget.

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