Alumni call for change at Arkansas Schools for the Blind and Deaf

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — After images of disrepair surfaced from inside of the Arkansas School for the Deaf and Arkansas School for the Blind, alumni have been calling for changes. Those images came after state lawmakers toured the campuses at the end of October.

Jessica Bryan is deaf, and a 2009 graduate of the School for the Deaf who said she has happy memories of sporting events and the buildings around campus.

When she saw pictures of what some parts look like now, she couldn’t believe it.

“Hard to believe it had gotten to that point, even though people have already told me it’s not in good standing anymore,” she said. “Pictures tell you everything.”

She wasn’t the only one shocked by what she saw— so were state lawmakers. 

Senator Clarke Tucker, (D-Little Rock), toured the campus and posted pictures of disrepair to his social media.

In a statement, he said, “We have to be committed as a state to do better by our young people who are deaf, blind, and visually impaired. And not just a little bit, we have to do a lot better. I am encouraged by the commitment I have seen recently from state leaders to do this work and am hopeful about making a substantial investment. As we move forward, it’s critical that the blind and deaf communities in Arkansas have meaningful input into the possibilities we are exploring.”

Other lawmakers, like State Senator Bart Hester, (R-Cave Springs), have seen that damage as well.

“I have seen the inside, and I can just recognize from being on the outside, that things are not in an acceptable condition there,” Hester said. “The problem is real, we are spending the money. We need to see results from that money, and now’s the time, not later.”

He said that they’ve already got $34,000,000 set aside for this, and he expects it could take more. He’s hopeful a solution will be announced by the end of the year, with progress starting next year.

As a state-run school, we also reached out to the Arkansas Department of Education. 

In a statement, Kimberly Mundell with the department said, “Governor Sanders and Secretary Oliva have said they would disrupt the failed status quo that has been failing our students for far too long. We recently invited legislators to tour the schools, so they could see firsthand the condition and issues with the facilities. We will continue to work closely with the Governor’s Office and the legislature to develop a solution that ensures students have a thriving environment in which to learn.”

Bryan said change needs to happen— and soon.

“I hope that now we all see about what’s happening, and what we need to do about it to fix it,” she said. “Let’s show the Arkansas School for the Deaf that we can support them 100%.”

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