Paula Busanic

WPSD’s first hunger striker

About your background . . .
I was born and raised in New Jersey with my Deaf grassroots family. I went to MSSD and then Gallaudet University. I double-majored in Government and Philosophy, and had dreams of going to law school and fighting for Deaf rights but somehow I lost interest during my last year at Gallaudet. Instead of deciding what to do with my future, I applied for Peace Corps and went to Ecuador. During two stints with Peace Corps in Ecuador and Kenya, I was afforded an opportunity to learn four new languages—Ecuadorean Sign Language (ESL), written Spanish, Kenyan Sign Language (KSL), and Kiswahili. The Peace Corps was the toughest job I had ever done. It also allowed me to see and understand what being poor really means.

I was a high-school Social Studies teacher for 8 years, and have been teaching ASL at a nearby community college for the past 6 years. But, mostly, I am a stay-at-home mother taking care of two toddlers, ages 4 and 2.

At WPSD, I experienced severe oppression and workplace bullying/retaliation. I, along with many Deaf employees, expressed our frustrations about  the communication policy, i.e., catching hearing faculty and staff speak without signing and reporting them with no subsequent action taken, long before I came to work at WPSD (2007- 2009).

It is unusual for a teacher to keep on meeting with the school superintendent shortly after the school received employee complaint letters. Instead of hearing us out and meeting us halfway, he bullied, intimidated, and retaliated me as well as others for standing up and speaking out for our Deaf rights against discrimination and oppression that was happening in the workplace as well as for students’ learning and language rights. He bribed me in exchange of evidence (I have proof) but I chose to ignore his blackmail letter and applied for unemployment compensation and then filed an EEO complaint against WPSD (for workplace violence/bullying/retaliation).

I understand that WPSD has a repressive policy that limits students' exposure to ASL in the classroom to two 30-minute sessions per week. Who was responsible for deciding this policy, and that Sim-Com should be given preference?
As WPSD administrators love to say, “It is Rhoten’s decision and policy.”  (Documented in numerous teacher complaint letters.)

Looking back, I will say Don Rhoten’s General Assembly: Retirement Announcement was what sparked the fire between me and Swanhilda. Superintendent (also known as CEO) used the sign cards to announce his retirement throughout the 12-minute video (vlog) via WPSD Website and on Facebook without using ASL—the language of the Deaf. His demeanor shows his audist disdain toward ASL as a language.

Paula Busanic and six stalwart fellow protesters.
Left to right, front: Max Hegedus (PA), Mateo Bonn (CO), Richard Wilt (PA, WPSD alumnus), Jolene Hendrickson (PA, WPSD alumna), Swanhilda Lily (CO, WPSD alumna). In back: Robert Mason (DC).

Was the hunger strike your idea?
Yes, it was my idea. After all, I’m a Social Studies teacher. At first, I planned to do hunger strike on my own. I knew it was the only way, really. As soon as I shared my intentions with Swanhilda, she confidently said, “I’m with you!” We both know it’s taking too long to do something about the foundations of Deaf Education and schools across the country.  I do recall telling her how hard it is to do it so far away from the school. She disagreed and believed the protest will spark the fire on Facebook, which it did.

Originally, my objective was to have some WPSD Board of Trustees to resign from their posts and have them replaced with ASL-fluent, Deaf teachers.

Shortly after the newspaper reporter came and reported the story, I felt I accomplished my mission. I ate pizza that night, and then in the morning, Swanhilda said she was going to stay on hunger strike and use BOT replacement as the sole demand. I knew it would be hard for her to do it alone, especially being so far away from WPSD. I live about 20 minutes away, and know it will make a whole lot difference if I stay on hunger strike, as a team.

The objective is to replace the current BoT (84% are hearing BoT with no or minimal knowledge in ASL.

Their behavior has shown that they are, in so many ways, guilty. They removed and changed a lot with their Website, and they even had to add a hashtag #wpsdproud to counter-attack us—a small group of women seeking justice against oppression and abuse. They are not willing to see things from our viewpoint, and to understand why we are concerned about audism and linguicism at WPSD

What sort of a response has there been from the Deaf community?
A lot of them are angry, confused, embarrassed, scared, worried, skeptical, revengeful by bringing old, personal issues into all this. No sense of unity, none whatsoever.

Lots of dysconscious audists who are colonized while using Sim-Com. However, a WPSD alumna/former WPSD teacher is planning a meeting with alumni and former students to find the middle ground.

The administration have not had a change of heart and are continuing to disrespect our concerns about the high # of hearing Board of Trustees with no knowledge or expertise in Deaf Education and ASL, and about audism and linguicism at WPSD. About 13 of Board members out of 18 have no knowledge in ASL; about 10 of them are in the business world, one is a cochlear-implant surgeon, one is a KDKA news reporter, one is a lawyer. We have only four Deaf Board members. We also have plentiful of evidence that WPSD practices bullying, workplace violence, oppression, audism, linguicism, discrimination, and language deprivation (as documented since 1999).

Deaf Person of the Year
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2019
January 2019 February 2019 March 2019 April 2019 May 2019 June 2019
July 2019 August 2019 September 2019 October 2019 November 2019 December 2019
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2018
January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018
Roberta Cordano TabPhoto Amanada Folendorf TabPhoto Sonya Smith TabPhoto Lauren Ridloff TabPhoto Julian Moiwai TabPhoto Joshua Castille TabPhoto
July 2018 August 2018 September 2018 October 2018 November 2018 December 2018
Rebecca Giuntoli TabPhoto
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2017
January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017
July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2016
January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016
July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2015
January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015
July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2014
January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014
July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2013
January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013
July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2012
January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012
July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2011
January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011
July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2010
January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010
July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2009
January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009
July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2008
January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008
July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2007
January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007
July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007

Site Terms | Contacts | Advertising | Privacy Policy

Any questions, comments, ideas, or concerns you’d like to share?  Contact us at
Copyright © 2007 - 2018 MSM Productions Ltd. All Rights Reserved.