Homeschool Organization Refuses to Accommodate Deaf Parents

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Burt Heymans.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

What should have been one of the happiest moments of their lives turned into a nightmare for a young homeschooled girl and her Deaf parents.

The girl, a homeschooled student from New Jersey, was graduating in a ceremony held on June 6 at Fellowship Bible Church in the city of Sewell. The ceremony was organized by Gloucester County Christian Home Schoolers Association (GCCHSA), a non-profit Christian home school support group serving families in Southern New Jersey.

According to the girl’s mother, Melissa Morgan, the Morgan family arranged for an interpreter to be at the ceremony so that Melissa and her husband Robert, who are both Deaf, could enjoy their daughter’s big day. The Morgan family was willing to make all the arrangements. They found an interpreter and had the interpreter meet with Andy Moore, the person in charge of the graduation planning. Andy referred them to his wife, Liz, and she and everyone else involved figured out where Melissa and Robert could sit for best visibility and where the interpreter should stand. The plan was for the interpreter to stand next to the presenter so that the interpreter would be visible to all who needed to see. According to the Morgan family, Liz agreed with and accepted these plans.

Later, according to Melissa, one parent from GCCHSA complained that it would be “distracting for an interpreter to stand next to the speaker and asked if an interpreter can sit on the floor away from the stage and at the bottom of the steps.” Melissa says that she “explained to her that I wouldn’t be able to see my daughter, the speaker, and the entire stage,” and adds that, “She doesn’t really understand my Deafness well.” Melissa states that the complaining parent kept interrupting her attempts to work things out with Andy Moore, the GCCHSA chair Ardra Jarvis, and the interpreter.

Eventually, Melissa and Robert were allegedly forced into a compromise: the interpreter would have to sit, not stand, on the stage, and would have to sit behind the speaker. In an email to Melissa from Andy Moore (obtained by Homeschoolers Anonymous), Moore tells her that, “It will be fine for your interpreter to sit in a chair at floor level in front of you for the remainder of the program.” Without any other options, Robert and Melissa had to accept. However, as Melissa pointed out to me, she would “not be able to view the speaker’s body language, tone, etc. And after we hand out the diplomas to the 8th graders, an interpreter will move her chair off the stage to the end of the steps on the floor in front of me and my family for the rest of the ceremony.” This meant that Robert and Melissa were unable to view the entire stage because they had to be “focused on the interpreter alone sitting on a chair on the floor for most of the time.” This meant they missed “most of the celebration.”

The day prior to the graduation, Melissa issued a public plea on her husband’s Facebook page for friends and family to petition GCCHSA to change their minds. “The more people sent [sic] to that email address and hopefully these people will open their minds and heart,” Melissa wrote. “I’m hoping that God will shed HIS light on those people to change their mind and hearts and be open.” Melissa and Robert were ultimately unsuccessful in these attempts. They were also unable to file a claim for disability discrimination under the American Disabilities Act because GCCHSA is a religious non-profit organization in New Jersey and thus exempt. Furthermore, while the graduation planner Andy Moore sent an email apology to the Morgans’ daughter for the stress the organization caused her, neither the daughter nor Robert nor Melissa received any apology from Ardra Jarvis, the chair of GCCHSA who bore ultimate responsibility. And as Melissa points out, even “after their apologizes, they didn’t change anything… It was 100% unacceptable, but we all stayed for the entire ceremony for the sake of our daughter.”

Even though what should have been a stress-free, wonderful graduation ceremony for her daughter ended up being a nightmare, Melissa is renewed in her eagerness to prevent this from happening to someone else’s child in the future. “I believe that all non-profit organizations should follow the ADA laws,” Melissa states. “What about people with disabilities, such as a person in a wheelchair who don’t have any accessibility?”

“I want to prevent this happening to anyone in the future.”

9 comments

  • This is very sad, because it could have been arranged with no inconvenience to anyone. I hope this organization learns how to accomodate others in the future.

  • Would it sound terrible if I say I’m not surprised? So many leaders of Christian Homeschooling (like the Pearls, Bauchum, Kevin Swanson, Stephen Anderson) are such hateful folks.

    Then you have this weird thought that comes from Nancy Campbell’s camp, that God rewards and takes care of righteous Christians in this life. By that thought, someone like Paris Hilton is a righteous Christian. But if you’re poor or ill, it’s obviously a sign that God is punishing you. So by that thought, could the Morgans possibly be considered ‘unrighteous Christians’? (Because otherwise God would cure their deafness.)

    When I was growing up, we were told by our nuns that God made folks that way, and we were to accept them and help them as needed. (So definitely the church made sure there were interpreters present.) And we were definitely supposed to be kind to the poor and ill. But now with folks like these Christianists, it’s no wonder the number of the “nones” and “dones” is rising.

    • Kathleen Pennington

      Cant even believe this is behavior from (so called) Christians…..they should be ashamed of themselves. They should follow ADA laws because it’s the RIGHT thing to do, not support the fact that they dont have to….its obvious the “complainer” has never had to deal with a disability in her family. So selfish… I pray she never has to, but if one day one of her children or grand babies is born with a disabilty she will live the heartache of discrimination…I will tell you from experience…it is not fun!!! You know what they say about Karma….

  • Homeschooling Mom

    I understand that all news articles are written biased or slanted regardless of the author. The details get blurry and misconstrued at times. In saying, if the details in this article are truth, once again Jesus is so saddened by this group’s direction and example of His grace and mercy. A formal apology from the chair is the right thing and expected.

    I am also so sorry that fantastic people have gotten into the crossfire of this group’s misdirection. The Moore family is a fantastic God-loving family. They do not deserve to be included in this article. They appeared to be the unfortunate messengers of misguided board.

  • Funny how this article, if you would call it that is so one sided. Did the person that write this reach out to the homeschooling group, the person in charge of the graduation, or any one else that was at the graduation ceremony? It is also nice that they randomly include a snippet from an email the family received from Mr. Moore, Let us see the whole email in context. I am sure that would not let them push their agenda.

  • HM. the Moore family were not unfortunate messengers.

    They either:

    a) betrayed their faith by agreeing with the board’s decision to cave to one complaining parent, instead of quoting a few verses about love and compassion to the complainer, and then politely telling the ignoramus to pound sand (which is what Jesus would have done.

    or

    b) didn’t agree with the decision, but fell back on the “I was only following orders” defense.

    Given where the apology letter came from, I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt and go with b), but sorry, that defense lost the last shreds of legitimacy in 1945. The right, honorable, and Christian thing to do would have been to insist on accommodating the deaf folks, or quitting, Going along to keep the job was not one of the available, Christ-inspired options.

    If homeschoolers wish to counteract the impression the rest of us outside have that a boatload of hate, fear and ignorance is being dumped on kids in your systems, the last thing you need to do is stand up and defend the people who do things like this, because it only entrenches our opinions further.

  • I’m not at all surprised. I can with about 99% accuracy figure out who the complaining parent was. I stepped down from this group’s board last year with several other members. Last year it was an attack on Catholics who they insisted were not Christians. This is NOT. A Christian group in my opinion. Jesus loved everyone.

  • You did the right thing, Michelle. The Moores didn’t. The only thing evil needs to thrive is “good” men who do nothing.

  • Although I do not know all the circumstances, and was not at the graduation, we are a homeschooling family and have participated in past graduations at this location. Given my interactions with the Moore family, I must insist that they surely would have tried to give the optimal accommodations for all involved. They are godly, loving parents that give and give and give not only for their own children but in my experience in working with them, they give and give and give for all people involved in all the projects I have seen them undertake.
    Expectations may not always be managed well from within a large group, but in my experience I am much more fulfilled in giving grace, especially when I understand that accommodations are trying to be made for me, than when I demand my rights and my own way no matter what. And I have definitely done both. I am grateful for those who have given grace to me in the past, and I am absolutely sure that the Moores are to be exonerated as the amazing, wise and loving family that I have ALWAYS known them to be!!!
    I do feel for the couple that were unable to have the same experience as the hearing people sitting beside them, but I am so glad they were able to attend and witness, to some degree, the blessing of having a homeschool graduation with so many others. Perhaps even more accommodations will be made for others in the future as people hear of the hurt you are going through. I could only wish that grace will be given in all circumstances and that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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