JACKSON, Miss– The Mississippi School For The Deaf is more than school. It’s home away from home, a safe place, and a place to learn about Deaf Culture.
Deaf culture represents the traditions of people in the deaf community. It represents preservation of history, reverence of those they learned under and self-confidence. Before anyone–deaf or hearing–can understand deaf culture, they first have to go to The Mississippi School For The Deaf.
“It’s home away from home,” says School For The Deaf Superintendent Dr. Sandra Edwards. Dr. Edwards says she grew up with the school. Her father, now profoundly deaf, was a hearing impaired student in the 1950s and 1960s. He remained active, and Dr. Edwards grew to love and embrace MSD as her home. Decades have passed, and now she’s the superintendent for the school.
Edwards says the school is sometimes misunderstood.
“We don’t teach them just sign language,” says Dr. Edwards, “we also teach them the curriculum, just using sign language.”
MSD is like every other school. The kids don’t learn anything different for your kids. They just learn it differently.
But MSD is also very different from every other school. The school serves children from all over the state, so some of the kids live in dorms on the campus.
“We have kids from all over the state,” says Dr. Edwards, “they go home every Friday. We have several routes that take them home.”
Those several routes are divided by region. Every Friday, drivers meet the parents to let the kids go home for the weekend. Some of these routes are four hours long.
“Then we do it again on Sunday,” says Dr. Edwards.
Because the kids are fully submerged in their education with other deaf kids, they build a sense of home. “They always come back,” says Edwards, “we’ll have 500 people at homecoming. When you graduate from a family like this, you always come back.”
The school functions as any other school. They switch classes, they do safety drills, they have physical education and athletics. The kids just have different methods to reach the same goals.
“We have a light system for changing classes,” says Dr. Edwards. Each color light represents a different message. There’s also a visual announcement system.
“It flashes to get their attention,” says Dr. Edwards, “then either it displays text, or we can use the cameras attached to just sign the message to the student body.”
As with any school, MSD has safety measures. These measures are unique.
“Half of my staff is deaf,” says Dr. Edwards, “and all of my students are deaf. So I have to get a message out quickly to keep them safe.”
Dr. Edwards says the visual announcement system came after she petitioned the state for the funding, “it was just after Virginia Tech. I had to figure out what I would do if someone got in here.”
Dr. Edwards stresses that these children are learning the same as other kids in the Mississippi education system.
“Common core, we have it. These kids and their families are making sacrifices, but it is worth it. They are growing up to be educated adults that are productive in society.”
And they always return to give back to the school that gave them so much.
For more information about the Mississippi School For The Deaf, check out their website.