A mother in Arviat, Nunavut, says her deaf daughter has been told to stay home from school in the afternoons because of a lack of sign language interpreters.

Rochelle Suluk's daughter Kimberly Joy Anoee is a Grade 9 student at John Arnalukjuak High School in a community of about 2,700.

At the beginning of the school year, Suluk said she met with the principal of the school who informed her about her daughter's change in schedule.

"The principal was saying that she only has to go to school only in the mornings because the ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter is looking after other students," she said.

School only has one full-time interpreter 

The high school has one full-time American Sign Language (ASL) assistant. According to the superintendent, there are two deaf students in the school.

kj and mom

Rochelle Suluk and her daughter Kimberly Joy Anoee. At the beginning of the school year, Suluk was informed Anoee would only be able to attend class in the mornings. (Submitted by Rochelle Suluk)

Suluk says a handful of other students hard of hearing also require the use of the ASL assistant and are able to attend a full day of class.

"I really want my deaf child who is 15 years of age to go to school too, just like any other normal student who goes to school everyday," Suluk said.

Suluk said her daughter spends her afternoons at home with nothing to do. She has failed Grade 9 once and her mother is worried that by not going to school full-time, her education and social life is being compromised.

Families usually consulted: department

Nunavut's department of education would not discuss the details of Suluk's daughter, citing confidentiality and privacy concerns, but said it provides "appropriate programming for children with special needs."

Cully Robinson, the superintendent for schools in the Kivalliq region, said staff positions are reviewed on an annual basis.

"There's an ongoing gradual increase in school aged children with profound hearing impairments and ASL assistants
assist with facilitating communication inside and outside the classroom," he said.

Robinson said a student's schedule could be reduced for a variety of reasons, including social, physical or academic needs.

"A change would not be implemented without family agreement, involvement of the school team, school administration and the involvement of the student support consultant," he said, adding the aim is to make sure every student is receiving the best education possible.

"The best way for parents to support their children is to work with the school and staff there who are very empathetic to the situation and want to help anyway that they can," he said.

No help

Suluk said she has contacted the school's committee and district education authority officials to discuss why her daughter is not attending class in the afternoon.

"I talked with them so many times," Suluk said. 

"I thought they would be helping me from the very start."

She said it's heartbreaking when her daughter asks her why she can't go to school in the afternoon. 

When she grows up, she says Anoee hopes to become a sign language interpreter to help other students in Arviat. 

"If she ever graduates."