School officer uses sign language to connect with students

School officer uses sign language to connect with students

Demond Fernandez, WFAA

September 1, 2015

DALLAS — In addition to making the rounds at J.L. Long Middle School in East Dallas, campus police Officer Kimberly Stangarone is going above and beyond to better communicate with the students she’s helping to keep safe.

The school has a large deaf population, so Stangarone decided to teach herself sign language.

“It just felt right for me to try and take it upon myself to learn their language, so that they could feel more comfortable to come up to me and speak,” she explained.

J.L. Long Middle School has a large population of students with hearing problems. So the campus officer decided to teach herself sign language.

Stangarone said she began teaching herself American Sign Language when she started working at Long Middle School three years ago. It is her way of better connecting with the 50 students in the school’s Deaf Education Program.

“My goal… my mission… is to help and serve the community,” she said. “I think that should be everyone — including deaf students and deaf adults.”

Stangarone said she would first ask deaf students to teach her to sign simple words. Then it moved to phrases.

Now, students like seventh-grader Shem Castillo are watching Officer Stangarone become the only Dallas ISD Police officer versed in sign language.

“It makes me feel good and proud of her that she signs,” Castillo said with the help of a sign interpreter. “She signs really well.”

Stangarone says she is building trust with students and their parents.

“I always tell them, ‘Hey, you know, I’m still learning!'” she said. “They’re like, ‘You’re fine. You’re doing great!'”

Stangarone said signing is not a language; it is a culture. She said the students have inspired her to take classes to become an American Sign Language interpreter.

“I want to show people all the positive sides of being a police officer,” she said. “To me, I think that’s really important that they see that, hey, I’m a police officer, but I’m willing to try something new and to get a little bit better.”


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.