Beyond the court at Missouri School for the Deaf
It’s at 8 a.m. and a classroom full of high school students are discussing an algebra equation.
At the Missouri School for the Deaf, students are provided constant communication and a sense of belonging 24/7. 88 students, from kindergarten through 12th grade, live and learn on this campus.
5-year-old Demonta Logan is one of those students. Demonta didn’t find out he was legally deaf until fourth grade. As he has grown his hearing is continuing to fade.
For most of his life, Demonta was one of few deaf students at the St. Louis public schools he attended.
After recommendations from his counselors, Demonta decided on his own that he wanted to enroll at the state funded school, which everyone there calls “MSD.”
I went here, the Missouri School for the Deaf because I thought I was going to make some new friends since I did. LOGAN 1
In public school, Demonta’s inability to understand what people were saying affected him socially. Sometimes miscommunication would lead to a fight with his friends.
Sometimes we’d get mad at each other, but I didn’t know why he got mad. LOGAN 2
He’s now able to communicate better with his friends. It’s because all students at MSD use sign language and share his situation. Now, eight months into his first year at school, Demonta feels comfortable with his friends and can speak without the fear of a miscommunication.
We’ll chill, chat, watch a movie, talk to each other whatever. LOGAN 3.
MSD teacher Angela Russell deals with students’ conflicts and needs all the time. Last year she had a student who started the year very timid but soon relaxed.
Socially you could tell she was so much more comfortable than in a situation where people didn’t understand why she talked different or why people couldn’t hear her. RUSSELS 1
The middle school and high school students live in dorms. There are separate dorms for boys and girls, and each room houses two students.
Room assistants are on call around the clock. They make sure all the students shower, clean their rooms, do their laundry, keep safe and stay on their schedule. Demonta says it’s like having a mom around.
She knows what is right and what is wrong. She watches us when the time is right, she’ll tell us that we didn’t clean our room, she’ll tell us to clean our room. LOGAN 3
Administration and faculty try to keep the transition seamless from mainstream schools to MSD. As required by the state, the curriculums are the same, but the overall experience is not.
Assistant Superintendent Tom Bastean is also a graduate of the school.
Bastean says deaf students at mainstream schools are unintentionally restricted. They are told when and how to complete tasks, and it creates a lack of independence.
We teach that here.
You have to think for yourself and you have to make decisions, you make your own choices. BASTEAN 1
It’s the extra-curricular activities at MSD that allow students to do just that.
Without those experiences I don’t know who I would have become. Maybe I would not know my identity if I had not come to this school. BASTEAN 2
For Demonta, it’s the basketball.
My favorite thing is about MSD is that I love to play basketball, that’s my favorite sport of all time. LOGAN 4
Demonta has gained a sense of belonging on the team. Although he is not on the starting five, he’s always the one jumping up and down from the bench cheering.
The school does a lot to keep the students connected, but still it can get lonely.
Demonta keeps a picture frame of family photos next to his bed.
Mostly I miss my girlfriend, miss mom, miss dad, my sister and my brother. LOGAN 4
Students at MSD go home almost every weekend to see their parents and siblings.
Still, Demonta loves when his parents come to surprise him to watch a basketball game.
Since Demonta enrolled at MSD, his father, Michael Logan, says he has noticed Demonta is more confident. He is more mature and more comfortable with himself.
Demonta hopes to continue to improve his confidence and academics at MSD until he graduates in three years.