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Nebraska School for the Deaf

The Nebraska School for the Deaf was established by the legislature in 1867. It opened April
1, 1869, on Twenty-Second Street between St. Mary and Leavenworth, overseen by Principal
William DeCoursey French, a deaf man, and Rev. Henry W. Kuhns. Katie Callahan of Omaha
was the first student. The school moved to this location in 1871.

American Sign Language (ASL) was the mode of instruction until the Nebraska Legislature
banned it from the classroom in 1911. The change was advocated by oralists, who believed
the deaf should learn to communicate by voice and lip-reading to better assimilate into
society. Nevertheless, students and faculty persisted in using ASL outside the classroom
until it was restored to the curriculum in the 1970s.

Among the school's achievements was its 1931 Class A state championship boys' basketball
team. By the 1990s the trend of enrolling deaf children in public schools caused the school's
student population to decline and it closed June 5, 1998. For 129 years the School for the
Deaf educated more than two thousand students who achieved success in many walks of
life.

Nebraska School for the Deaf Alumni Association
Nebraska Deaf Heritage Museum and Cultural Center
Nebraska State Historical Society, 2012

3223 N 45th, Omaha
Douglas County
Marker 498

 


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Last updated 3 December 2012

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