#WPSDhungerstrike: Fight for Deaf Children’s Education

Graphic by Adrean Clark

Graphic by Adrean Clark

People all over the United States are hunger striking for Deaf children’s education at Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. This program has come under scrutiny due to its low Deaf representation in the school board and their insistence on using Simultaneous Communication (instead of American Sign Language) in the classroom.

But unless you’re connected on their facebook page, it’s possible you didn’t hear about this issue. Surprisingly, the fact that four people fasted for 25+ days did not get much press coverage. Nor did the fact that they’ve changed tactics to a hunger strike chain (everyone takes turns fasting for 3 days, the list includes 29 people and counting and continues through December).

I learned about this issue through social media and then I met Swanhilda Lily on Skype. She’s a graduate student, currently residing in Denver, who attended Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (WPSD) once upon a time. She fasted for 25 days before stopping and she’s passionate about seeing the success of deaf children. I interviewed her twice over Skype in ASL to learn about this complex issue in Pittsburgh. This story was featured on the KBOO Evening News for Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015.

You can listen to the audio and see the original interview videos in ASL. These videos are not captioned, but transcripts of both the edited feature and the videos are provided. Check out the podcast!

Air date: 11/12/2015 

Correction: Swanhilda Lily is not a deaf education teacher, rather she is graduate student in Sign Language Education at Gallaudet University.

You can read a transcript of the feature: WPSDKBOOnewsstory

Check out videos from the original interviews!

Transcript for WPSD_1: WPSD_1

Transcript for WPSD_2: WPSD_2

**I anchor the KBOO Evening News every Thursday at 5 pm pacific time. You can listen to the full broadcast here.
**Super duper thanks to Sarah Wylder Deshpande for lending your voice for this story! 

Follow-up 12/18/2015: Swanhilda Lily informed me that the fight was still continuing and in fact, she is on a continual hunger strike (day 30 as of this post)! Some of the demands were met by the WPSD (greater Deaf representation on the board, incorporating bilingual education training) but for some reason, they still are staunchly unwilling to engage in an open dialogue.

For the Thursday, Dec. 17th 2015 episode of the KBOO Evening News, I filed this update. Check out the podcast!

You can read a transcript of the follow-up story: WPSDFollowUpStory

**I anchor the news for KBOO every Thursday. You can listen to the full broadcast here.

Check out the original video interview with Swanhilda Lily:

You can read a transcript of the follow-up interview: WPSD3

**Special thanks to: 
Sarah Middleton for helping with the translation
Sarah Wylder Deshpande for lending her voice