Ruth Griggs: Clarke story ‘read like sensationalism’

  • Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Published: 1/17/2019 9:02:57 AM

I was deeply disturbed to read your feature report on Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech in the Saturday, Jan. 12 paper. I found it read like sensationalism, akin to tabloid journalism. I understand that newspapers exist as a checks and balance on our society, and that readers have a right to know when allegations of wrongdoing rise to the surface within any organization. I feel that the news story that was published in the Gazette in the summer of 2018 served the purpose of alerting our community to the long-ago issues at Clarke and the report Clarke issued on that past abuse. The feature story, detailing the corporal punishment of the distant past, was a punishment to me as a reader.  

There is no denying that the past discipline practices at Clarke were appalling, but we must recognize that the incidents took place many decades ago, when corporal punishment was (sadly) a common practice among educational institutions of all types. I don’t expect you are planning to interview students who survived corporal punishment at other area private and public schools in the ’50s and ’60s, even though I am certain there would be stories to tell. I also found nothing newsworthy about your series of articles. The alumni stories of abuse are 40, 50 and 60 years old. The school in which the abuse took place no longer exists. A key part of the story — the debate between the use of American Sign Language versus Listening and Spoken Language — was not clearly told or told in its entirety. There has been and continues to be an enormous amount of contention in the deaf community over ASL versus LSL. I believe that that contention played a role in the story, but that role was not made clear to readers.

I believe your article unfairly damages the reputation of Clarke Schools, an institution worthy of admiration with five growing campuses on the east coast. Clarke successfully teaches thousands of students who are deaf or hard of hearing to listen and speak. I call on the Gazette to tell the story of Clarke today.

Ruth Griggs

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