16

I'm a teacher in schools for deaf people. In one of the previous schools I taught at, we faced an organizational situation that I thought originated from the management's distrust towards our deaf colleagues.

Every teacher had some extracurricular activities, however deaf colleagues were being supervised by hearing colleagues, while hearing colleagues were not supervised at all by their colleagues, but only directly from the management. We asked the management about that issue and the answer was that there were too many mistakes in the deaf teachers activities.

Despite being a learning environment for the deaf, it seemed like the management distrusts all deaf teacher's abilities, and treated them different from the rest of the teachers. From a more practical perspective, it meant that hearing colleagues had a heavier workload since we had to supervise in addition to caring for our own activities.

At the time we did nothing, but now I am questioning whether or not I should have reported this.

In this sort of situation, where I think a group of employees may be being discriminated against (but am not positive), is there any action I can take short of reporting the issue to help resolve this problem?

  • 5
    What an awful situation to be in... – yannis Oct 5 '12 at 23:56
  • Isn't the discrimination the other way around? Sounds like management is more interested in keeping an eye on the hearing employees than the non-hearing. Assuming you're a hearing person, management is watching YOU! If they were concerned about the deaf colleagues, they'd be watching THEM! :) Maybe you can edit and clarify why you think this is discriminatory towards the deaf colleagues. I don't get it. Good luck! :) – jmort253 Oct 7 '12 at 19:52
  • 2
    Hi ioanna, I want to apologize for my earlier comment. I don't think it came out how I intended. I'm not 100% sure I understand why you feel this is discriminatory. I've been in peer review situations and they were less stressful than the manager reviewed situations. I was thinking that an example of what one of these review sessions is like may add some context to your question and help clarify..... Just FYI, you can continue editing your post; It's possible it may be reopened. Good luck! :) – jmort253 Oct 9 '12 at 5:49
  • 4
    It sounds like your basis for this is largely based on one action (supervision of extracurricular activities), so I would start by asking management why this policy is in place, and why teachers that can hear get supervised by management while teachers that can't hear get supervised by their colleagues. It may be that they have a perfectly legitimate reason for this policy. If they can't/won't answer the question, or answer it in a way you still feel is discriminatory towards either group, then you'll want to take action and report the problem. – Rachel Oct 9 '12 at 14:01
  • 5
    @Rachel At the beginning we didn't understand what was going on.But after some time we noticed that the deaf colleagues didn't feel very comfortable with us who supervised them. So we asked the management about that issue and his answer was that there were too many mistakes in their activities and he was responsible for that so he had to deal with it. My main question is if all the colleagues together can do something to deal with that situation inside the school initially, in order to avoid reporting. – Ioanna Oct 9 '12 at 17:13
6

I am old enough to remember when Chapter 766 was enacted, and I have been part of that group since it's enactment. Being discriminated against due to a disability (Dyslexia and Asperger for me) has put plenty of barriers in front of me to confront and tear down. This type of discrimination infuriates me, and I am in a way dealing with it at where I work as well, the problem you are running into is not as uncommon as you think. Color, age, sex, and disability when not always visible, but recognizable is always discriminated against, knowingly or unknowingly.

Sometimes it’s for the better or for the worse, in my case and in the case of the OP, I have to agree that it is unfair. Since you have confronted the school about this and they claim in a rather weak statement, that there are more mistakes for the deaf faculty than the hearing you may want to bring this to a higher level. What do you really want to do then, because there are things you need to ask yourself.

Do the deaf teachers want you to do anything? If not, let them be. If so, ask if they have done anything to fix what you think is discrimination, if they have and nothing has come of it, then ask if its ok for you to talk to someone about it. If they give you their blessing, then talk to the shop steward if this is a union school, if not superintendent if you have already brought it to the principal’s or Headmaster’s attention I am sure.

If this doesn’t get resolved by these actions then, then ask yourself where do you want to go from here? The news? Or do you go to the town hall and bring this up in the next town hall?

You seriously need to think of where you want to take this, because this is not only about your own personal views but other people’s lives, and if you aren’t careful you may drag people into this that you don’t intend to.

My only real statement here is that if you are going to go forward with anything, think long and hard before you do. Make sure you cover all your bases, and do everything by the book, because if you don’t, you are going to be let go faster than a hot potato covered in cheese and sour cream. Also, you may ruin a good teacher’s reputation, or other people’s lives by bringing this to the forefront, and although you may intend good, you may not be perceived as a good person because of the actions, unless you cross all your Ts’ and dot your Is’. In this super-sensitive and charged culture, all things can be thrown into a hand basket and thrown into hell faster than you can say oh poo.

  • +1 for "Do the deaf teachers want you to do anything? If not, let them be." – Sylvain Peyronnet Oct 23 '12 at 7:16
4

If you really want to get into it, find the organizations, state and federal rules against such practices. Then you have to be able to clearly identify where they are violating the laws and rules. Then you can take it to the school board to do some sort of evaluation of the situation and if they find it true will do something about it. Worst case you could get a lawyer involved too.

However, this may hurt you position and is up to you how to go about it.

Unfortunately, there is unspoken discrimination and inequalities in the work place, we have to do the best we can, it will never be perfect we are human.

4

As far as changing management's attitude, it might be a long shot. I'd start with empowering the marginalized teachers in what little way I can: The deaf teachers are put under the supervision of the hearing teachers, a disablement by itself. Why not start by just easing off on your deaf colleagues and letting them take the reins, without looking insubordinate? By giving them back that control, you're going a long way in showing them your support and belief in their abilities, in spite of management's heads-up-their-you-know-where-ness. At the end of the day, I'm usually satisfied and content in the fact that my team mates have my back (and traditionally, it's always been an US v Them paradigm btw senior management and the rest of us). Keep at the back of your mind tho, for management's purposes, you're accountable.

there are also traces of racism in the management's behaviour and decisions. Furthermore, from a more practical perspective, it meant that hearing colleagues had a heavier workload (given that we had our own activities to care for).

Are you the only one who feels the way you do? Exercise a little caution here. Remember in those cartoons where someone asks an assembly of soldiers who wants to go on a mission, and then the rank and file step back, leaving one poor sap in front? Racism is a pretty heavy accusation, play the card with caution. If you've others in your corner, you might have enough critical mass to start and maybe effect a change (whistleblowing,etc).

You're indeed are in a very uncomfortable situation.

3

The first thing that comes to mind, that seems worth throwing out there is the thought of "reasonable accomodation". Supervision shouldn't and doesn't imply punishment - in a workplace, everyone should have some level of supervision, commensurate with their work needs and skill level.

Treating two groups differently for a reason that is related to race, gender, disability, etc, can sound like discrimination, and in many cases it is, particularly when it limits the opportunities and puts undue strain on certain employees in terms of attaining job success. HOWEVER, disabilities are the wild card, because it is safe and in fact required under many laws (US law is my only experience) that employers need to provide a reasonable accomodation to allow disabled employeees the same opportunities as regular employees if they can adequately perform the majority of their job functions. For example, if I manage people in a big company who are deaf, and unable to communicate with me because I don't speak sign language, then a reasonable accomodation is to have our communication filtered through an interpreter. Obviously this is different than it would be for a hearing employee who can communicate with me directly. And it varies in cases of the size of my company and my profit margin - in a 3 person company, hiring a 4th person purely to be the intepreter may be an undue burden - but in a multinational where 1 interpreter supports 20 employees - it may be quite reasonable. In essence, if the company has the means to provide an ASL interpreter, hiring and supporting the needs of the deaf employee is not only fair, it's required by law in some cases.

So it has a lot to do with the reason for the issue - if management could all communicate clearly and effectively with the deaf employees directly, then there would be no need for an accomodation and the case you mention might be a case of discrimination. However, if there are a large number of deaf teachers, who can't communicate clearly with management, so management is asking for hearing teachers who have a strong capability to act as interpreters and take on some of the communication burden to prevent mistakes and communication gaps - then that is reasonable given that other options might be fire the deaf teachers or hire so many interpreters that the school would fail to keep a reasonable budget.

Ideally, the school will find a way to balance the work load so supervising teachers are compensated differently or given less responsibility in other areas to account for the added time requirement. And ideally there is a metric for measuring whether a deaf teacher is good enough at communicating with hearing managers that the teacher may not need this extra accomodation, and might even be able to be a supervising teacher himself - so that no one is limited by a disability...

It would also be nice if there was a greater reliance on non-human communication tools - like email - where deaf teachers are no more limited than hearing - except my understanding of deaf communication has been that even in writing there can be gaps, as writing imitates spoken language much more closely than it does ASL... so using it as the only communication tool could be risky, as well.

And of course, the very obvious hope - would be to hire some managers who are strong sign language speakers - after all, if it's a school for the deaf, you'd think that would be a core competency, even in the administration!! But it's hard to guess from the outside what's really possible.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.