When I used to take a bus to school, I remember it being a rowdy ride most of the time. The kids were always bouncing up and down in the seats, despite the bus driver always going out of his way to show us the importance of putting on a seat belt. Some kids used to play a politically incorrect game called the “Chinese Fire Drill” in which they would jump into the seat directly in front of theirs. There was, naturally, plenty of horseplay on the bus.

I was, therefore, shocked when I read about a New Jersey schoolgirl who was banned from using Sign Language while riding the bus. According to the school, her use of sign language poses a safety threat to the other students. Her parents had a different side to the story, however.

Danica’s parents told the paper that other students who rode to school with their daughter made fun of her, and refused to stay in their seats as they teased other girls who were using sign language. They said school officials are singling out Danica and not addressing those who should really be reprimanded.

It is a fundamental right of a person to be able to communicate with other people. The entire idea behind sign language is that people who are not able to communicate in other ways can use it to communicate. The ban from the school on this student to use sign language is, in effect, an extreme discrimination against her need to use sign language.

Only a couple of years ago, a doctor was taken to court and lost because he wouldn’t provide a sign language interpreter for a patient.

…because Dr. Fogari denied her an interpreter, she claimed she never had “any real understanding” of her diagnosis, treatment or prognosis, and was deprived of an equal opportunity to fully participate in her medical care, according to the complaint. Dr. Fogari treated Gerena’s condition with steroids, but she alleged the doctor never fully explained the risks and benefits.

One of the most important aspect of growing up is making friends and communicating with them in a meaningful and even memeingful way. What right does a New Jersey school district have to take away this important aspect of Danica’s life because they perceive some sort of safety danger — a danger that we know fully well is not really there.


  1. This is a heartbreaking article, Gordon! It infuriates me. The ADA is becoming less and less powerful in a bad economy. Businesses and State and Federal agencies now believe they are immune from protecting disabled workers and clients because, they claim — “we’re broke” — and they shrug off the law.

  2. Oh, there are equivalents, Gordon, but if you want action — you have to sue for an ADA violation — and many disabled people don’t have the money to hire a lawyer and few lawyers will take on contingency an ordinary ADA case because they know there isn’t much money to be won in the end and it will take years to get to trial. That means the ADA has no teeth and zero bite.

  3. A terrible and sad story. Who is she signing to? Are there other students who use sign language on that bus? If signing is banned, then they should also ban talking. Have a “no communication” bus ride and see how that sits with the average bodied.

    1. Indeed, Janna. That would be an impressive show. Sometimes you need to feel what another person is feeling to understand why making them feel that way is wrong.

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