U.S. Department of Education via Fax

I am writing to inform you of a Civil Rights violation that occurred on the campus of LaGuardia Community College on October 15, 2016, and was sponsored by the LaGuardia Program for Deaf Adults, Sorenson Communications and the U.S. Department of Education, as a “Deaf Self-Advocacy” seminar.

The Civil Rights violation was not against me, a Deaf woman who works in Vocational Rehabilitation for the State of New York, and who has taught ASL at NYU for over 20 years, and who has also written seven books on ASL and Deaf Culture.

No, the violation of Civil Rights was against my husband, David Boles, who happens to be hearing, and who was told by your representative, [name redacted], that he “had to leave” the event because he was hearing and that it was a “Deaf only” event and that he was “violating a safe space policy” merely by being in the room.

My husband attended the event to learn about Deafness and advocacy. He writes ASL books with me. He teaches ASL in person and online at HardCoreASL.com. He knows ASL. He has written about Deaf Culture issues for over 25 years.

When I asked [name redacted] why my husband had to leave the event only because he is hearing, she told me the advertisement flyer said “Deaf Only” and I corrected her that it did not. Please see the attached flyer as proof.

Before [name redacted] involved herself in throwing my husband out of the event, he had friendly conversations with several members of the staff. He spoke with the Deaf members at the table we joined.

My husband ended up leaving since he was unwelcome. I left 90 minutes after he did. I could not stay until the end as I couldn’t focus after the incident.

The event was held on public property at a public college and it is against the law to bar anyone from any event based on their gender, race, or ability.

For a training session dedicated to self-esteem, and growing your confidence, [name redacted] behavior has overall chilling effect for everyone involved as she told my husband to leave in front of many of the attendees. She could have asked to talk with him in private instead of making a public confrontation. I was embarrassed how it was handled.

I am writing to inform you of this Civil Rights violation — because if Deaf people have the right to inclusion, so too, do hearing people — and anyone else who wishes to learn about Deaf advocacy, because the more people who are interested in learning, the better it is for everyone.

The fact that I have to write this letter to you defending my hearing husband against discrimination by the Deaf, is sadly ironic — especially in light of the content of the workshop. The workshop was about self-esteem, advocacy, and not giving up. Today, I’m writing to you with those three inspirations in mind.

We Deaf people have been discriminated against all our lives and we should not now lower ourselves to the level of our oppressors.

As for [name redacted]’s “safe spaces” argument, it is a dangerous phrase to invoke without knowing the full effect. If [name redacted] was told by the U.S. Department of Education or LaGuardia or Sorenson that the event was a “safe space” barring hearing people, then I believe she needs to be re-educated as to the meaning of that phrase.

As remedy of this violation, I ask that [name redacted] be informed what a Civil Right really means, in context and execution, and that she also not use the “safe space” argument to try to have someone thrown out of an event because they do not fit her definition of a disability.

The Deaf discriminating against the hearing is not something that should be promoted. As well, we should not be violating against any person, or excluding them from events, just because of who they were born to be.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Janna Sweenie

[Publisher’s Note: Here is my David Boles: Human Meme podcast — That Was The Week That Was in Bigotry — and Part II, starting at 11:11, reveals my reaction to what happened at the Deaf Advocacy event hosted at LaGuardia. The YouTube auto-Closed-Captioned version appears first, followed by the audio-only version on HumanMeme.com.]

[Publisher’s Note: This David Boles: Human Meme podcast — UChicago.edu is Not a Safe Space — enlightens the “spafe spaces” matter of Janna Sweenie’s letter. First is the auto-Closed-Captioned version of the podcast published on YouTube. The second version is the audio version of the podcast found on HumanMeme.com.]

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