It all began when a student applied for a position for the Associated Student Body (ASB), Many other students applied, but none made through due to not being qualified. I, Sheena, was one of them. I applied to be a part of ASB in hopes of becoming the first deaf representative ever at Burbank High. Little did I knew, that passion of mine would be shattered.
Outside of ASB’s classroom, I waited to get more information from Mrs. Miller on why not even one was selected. She came out and was very open about the reasons why. During our conversation, I asked if there was something I could improve on. She expressed that I would have gotten the position, but because of my inability to speak on the microphone… The bell rang saving Mrs. Miller from more confessions.
Stunned by her response…Was this a nightmare? No I kept telling myself. Before I knew it, I was in a classroom expressing what had occurred to me to my favorite interpreter. As soon the class was over, my interpreter ran to Mrs. Miller’s room to confirm the facts. Sure enough, I was right after all.
The next thing I found myself doing was setting a meeting with the principal to address the discrimination before my eyes. This being the first time I had experienced blatant discrimination, I paged my parents to keep me sane. They reassured me by saying that I did the right thing.
You think the meeting helped one bit? This is what the principal of Burbank High said to me,
“It’s like if a person in a wheelchair tried out for a basketball team, of course he wouldn’t make the team.”
Mrs. DeeRoos was just like Mrs. Miller. As you can tell, my hope was completely gone. As a last resort, I sought support from the Deaf/Hard of Hearing (D/HH) specialist. In a heart beat, the D/HH specialist joined the forces with me.
While we two were trying to gather as much information, a lot has happened. I was:
- pulled out of my class by Mrs. Miller to change the story.
- falsely accused for flipping the bird to the entire ASB.
- banned from using my own interpreters as my witnesses due to code of ethics.
- shocked to learn that Mrs. Miller changed the qualifications on the application form (Hint: Something to do with the microphone).
On my birthday was when everyone – Mrs. Miller, my parents, the D/HH specialist, Vice Principal, and an ASL interpreter – was under the same roof for a meeting to review what happened. Boy, the meeting was on fire! No need to disclose the details here, but Mrs. Miller walked out with a warning from Burbank Unified School District. There are so many laws protecting our dear teachers. When it comes to a student like me who was harmed in the process, there is NOT ONE single thing that protects me.
“Your words against the teacher,” echoed each time I asked why.
After a long, grueling and tiresome journey, I was able to find myself again.
Fast forward to 10 years later…only if I had the wealth of knowledge, more Deaf role models, and resources back then, a case would have been possible. To this day, I regretted I never did more with the discrimination that I experienced from Mrs. Miller. You got lucky, but there’s such a thing as Karma. And there is no stopping me from sharing my story.