American Sign Language classes are canceled due to vacant teaching position

By Olivia Miltner

For the American Sign Language classes at UAHS, the start of the school year began with utter disarray. As excited students walked into their elective on Aug. 24, they received a shocking surprise: no teacher was present to lead the class.

The students waited and waited, and as all 49 minutes ticked by, they realized that Karen Riggs, their former educator, was not going to arrive. Junior Leah Minor remembers that strange first day.

“It was so weird. We just sat there all of class,” said Minor, who has been taking ASL for two years.
Just before the school year started, Riggs left her part-time teaching job at Upper Arlington for a full-time position at Whetstone High School, as noted on the Columbus City Schools’ website. As UAHS scrambled to find a new, qualified teacher, the non-functioning ASL class continued, with students using it as a study hall. Not knowing whether or not the school board would find a replacement teacher or if the class would be cut, they awaited the outcome.

Juniors Leah Minor, Ashley Holden, and Tara Weixel sign ‘ASL.’ All three had to find alternative electives since their American Sign Language class was cut. Photo by Christine Jones

Photo by Christine Jones

After two weeks, UAHS principal Kip Greenhill finally made a decision.

“I’m really excited because we found someone for next year,” said Greenhill. “She implemented sign language courses in both schools she previously taught at in New York and Chicago. But she just moved here, and because she has a very little kid she felt like it would be too big of  a move to start this year.”
This meant that without a teacher, the ASL program could not currently continue.

“I’m really concerned about this, because I believe [ASL] is a very important course. It creates a sense of community within the school, and gives the hearing-impaired a way to communicate [with other students],” Greenhill said.
Canceling the class not only worried Greenhill, but also troubled students about what will happen to the program.
“What I really am upset about is the fact that ASL was becoming more and more popular within the high school and it appeared that ASL was on the path to gaining the respect and full potential it has, but now I fear the popularity for ASL will end along with the class,” junior Tara Weixel said.
According to Greenhill, the 39 students that were taking the class had to find alternative electives to take the place of ASL. Some students formerly enrolled in the class are also looking into other educational options for sign language, including off-campus studying.

“I plan on taking an ASL class outside of school, but still plan on getting credit as an elective art for the class,” Weixel said. “Columbus State offers ASL classes and I will hopefully be starting one of those classes soon.”
Classes at Columbus State Community College are one option that the school is considering for its stranded students, while also offering a couple other alternatives.
“We are paying for students if they would like to take a post-secondary class at Columbus State. It would also be good because it would be taken as a college credit,” Greenhill said.

He also noted that students have the option to use flex credit to continue their ASL education.
Despite the few alternatives to the class, cutting ASL was a blow to most associated with the course.
“It [was] one of my favorite classes, and [it’s] really important. I can’t believe it won’t be offered anymore,” Minor said.

However, even though the class will no longer be availiable at the high school, Weixel said she is still determined to keep it a part of their life.
“I plan on incorporating ASL within my life,” said Weixel. “Having no class or teacher at UAHS can’t stop me from pursuing my goal of learning ASL.”