Two main issues came out of the annual general meeting for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District: representation for deaf and hard of hearing students, and possible school closures.

As the NLESD board of trustees covered off the high points of last year, a handful of people supporting the deaf community sat in the designated public viewing area and held up signs reading, “Deaf children matter.”

The group feels the school board discriminates against deaf students by not having enough American Sign Language (ASL) resources in schools.

People protesting at the AGM on Saturday want to be on the NLESD committee reviewing the issue.

“We feel we are key stakeholders as parents of a deaf child,” said Todd Churchill, whose son Carter is in the third grade. 

The Churchill family filed a human rights complaint against the district in 2017 and is taking the matter to a human rights hearing — a process Churchill says might not end until Carter is in junior high or high school. 

The board struck a steering committee earlier this month to investigate ways to better serve deaf and hard of hearing students.

Steering committee

“As you can imagine up to this point now, we have significant trust issues with the system,” Churchill said. 

“We were very trusting in kindergarten, and we found that trust was misplaced because the English School District and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development did not have our child’s best interest at heart. We definitely do, and we want to be a member of that committee to make sure his rights are protected.”

CEO Tony Stack said the school board’s committee looking into the issue is made of representatives from different deaf and hard of hearing organizations, adding that community stakeholders would be consulted as part of the process.

“I can’t speak to the human rights case. Obviously, that’s a legal matter,” Stack said.

“But I will say that we are gaining knowledge about the issue of deaf and hard of hearing children and it behooves us to closely examine what we’re doing and see if we can do things better.”

Possible school closures

At the meeting Saturday, the board also decided to start looking at five different school systems for what it calls possible efficiencies.