In a message dated 3/29/2006 12:52:05 P.M. Pacific Standard
Time, a student writes:
Hi Dr. Bill
I just wanted to clear up any misunderstanding about
today's class. I was NOT voicing in class today but
I want to know if mouthing words with out voice is
also considered rude. I do catch myself mouthing
words alot either before or while fingerspelling. If
it is rude I will work hard to break that habit. I
take your class serious as I enjoy it a great deal
so I do not want to risk failing based on a behavior
I was unaware of as being rude (if it is indeed
rude). Thanks for your time.
Hey, GOOD point.
No, I don't think of you as being rude at all. You are one of
the most dedicated students I've seen. You and I have just been
victims of the "department's" no-voice policy.
I have long thought that the department's policy of "no voice"
in class has been an inappropriate policy due to a number of
1. Corollary data from oral deaf schools indicates that the
absolute prohibition of a student's native language is nearly
impossible to enforce.
What I mean by that is for over a hundred years Hearing people
at "oral" schools have tried without success to force Deaf
people to stop using sign language in the classroom. Invariably
the deaf students would ignore the ban and sign when the
teachers weren't looking.
2. A prohibition policy leads to a stressful "police state"
instead of a emotionally welcoming environment.
3. Behavioral scientist Jaana Juvonen in the March 9,
2001 issue of Salon.com points out that in attempting to control
student behavior, "zero tolerance" policies may actually
4. Overly strict policies are viewed by students as
unreasonable. Thus they feel justified in breaking such
5. I have visited many ASL classes here at Sac State. In each
ASL 1 class I have visited, without exception, I have observed
student whispering and/or talking--despite the policy.
6. It has consistently been shown that there are serious
concerns about the effectiveness of zero tolerance policies.
Skiba, R. (2000). Zero tolerance, zero evidence: An analysis of
school disciplinary practice (Policy Research Report #SRS2).
Bloomington, IN: Indiana Education Policy Center. (available at:
7. It is nearly impossible for a Deaf instructor to effectively
police student voicing because it is impossible to tell
whether the student is simply mouthing without voicing.
Mouthing an occasional corresponding English word while signing
ASL is very common in the Deaf world. To outlaw mouthing
totally in the classroom would be to require students to sign in
a way that is not representative of how communication occurs
between average Deaf Americans.
I've got to get home to help out my wife with the kids...but I
plan on resuming this discussion later on.
Thanks for clarifying that you weren't voicing.