Board awards diplomas to former KSD students

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Marilyn Allen Jones wipes away a tear after receiving her diploma at the Kentucky School for the Deaf during a special ceremony at the school. The Kentucky Board of Education awarded diplomas to African-Americans who were enrolled at KSD in the mid-20th century but did not receive recognition for graduation. Photo by Amy Wallot, Aug. 3, 2011
Marilyn Allen Jones wipes away a tear after receiving her diploma at the Kentucky School for the Deaf during a special ceremony at the school. The Kentucky Board of Education awarded diplomas to African-Americans who were enrolled at KSD in the mid-20th century but did not receive recognition for graduation.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Aug. 3, 2011

At a special ceremony Aug. 3 on the campus of the Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD), the Kentucky Board of Education awarded diplomas to African-Americans who were enrolled at KSD in the mid-20th century but did not receive recognition for graduation.

“The Kentucky Board of Education and Kentucky Department of Education sincerely regret that this injustice occurred and intend to correct these past occurrences through the issuance of diplomas to all African-American students who were enrolled at KSD during this time period,” Board Chair David Karem said. “The stain of segregation and denial of rightfully earned recognition cannot be completely erased by issuing these diplomas, but we hope that this action – and our sincere apologies – will bring long-deserved closure for former students.”

Approximately 75 individuals were identified to receive diplomas. These individuals were enrolled at KSD between 1930 and 1955, but left the school without receiving official recognition of graduation or completion of courses.

“Although we can’t change history, we hope that this action will bring long-deserved closure for former KSD students,” Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said.

Kentucky Board of Education members, Holliday, KSD staff, former students and their family members, state agency officials, state legislators, and local officials attended the ceremony.

Graduates who received diplomas at the ceremony were:

  • John Henry Brown
  • Emerson Lee Clay
  • Oscar Hamilton
  • Emma Bell Hill Heard
  • Marilyn B. Allen Jones
  • Pearlene Briscoe Mollett
  • Richard David Riley
  • Norma Jean Williams
  • Beatrice Mollet Woodson (accepted by Henry Woodson)

The Kentucky Board of Education also seeks information about any other former African-American students who were enrolled at KSD, but left the school without receiving recognition of graduation or completion of courses. Individuals should contact KSD Principal Rodney Buis at (859) 239-7017 or rodney.buis@ksd.kyschools.us.

In 1823, the Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD) became the first state-supported school of its kind in the nation and the western hemisphere. KSD has a rich history of ensuring that deaf and hard-of-hearing children and youth in Kentucky have educational opportunities to develop their potential to become educated, life-long learners and productive citizens.

The school currently enrolls approximately 140 students, and the Kentucky Board of Education serves as the board of education for both KSD and the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) in Louisville.

While research conducted by staff at the Kentucky Department of Education and KSB does not indicate that KSB had a similar practice in place, former KSB students who believe they were denied diplomas on the basis of race should contact KSB  Principal John Roberts at (502) 897-1583 or john.roberts@ksb.kyschools.us.

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