School Bus Sign Language Ban Lifted

B R A N C H B U R G, N.J., April 26, 2001 -- A hearing-impaired New Jersey girl will not be barred from using sign language on her school bus as long as she obeys all the district's safety rules.

Danica Lesko, 12, was told by her school principal last month that she would be suspended for three days if she did not stop, because the use of sign language was "disruptive."

District officials in Branchburg were soon bombarded with calls and e-mails from people and groups around the country, who questioned why the ban was needed. The issue also was the topic of several talk radio shows.

Signing Allowed on the Bus

"The district's policy and the principal's intention is not to ban signing," Superintendent Lois Capabianco said Wednesday. "Everyone needs to know that signing is allowed on the bus."

She declined to further discuss the case, citing active and potential litigation, but said the district's attorney had sent the girl's parents a letter which clarifies the policy.

The Leskos, who claim their daughter's hearing problem was caused by an incident at her school last year, said they were seeking an apology from school officials.

"My daughter was obeying the rules of the bus," Mary Ann Lesko said. "She was not accused of any inappropriate behavior."