Elementary school students are learning sign language to support their classmate

Students support classmate with sign language

Last Updated Jun 10, 2019 10:54 AM EDT

Dayton, Maine — Morey Belanger, 6, has a severe hearing impairment. But she's also, very much, a typical kid. Which is why, when it came time for kindergarten, her parents Shannon and Matt were torn.

Should they send her to a school for the deaf or to the public school in Dayton, Maine which was close and convenient? Unfortunately, at the public school, there weren't any other kids like Morey and support was minimal.

"You always think of the bad things, like are they going to make fun of her," Shannon said. "Thankfully we made the right choice."

You can guess what they decided. Or can you? Believe it or not, at Dayton Consolidated Elementary, the public school, talking like Morey has become all the rage. Kids there have started to learn sign language.

Obviously, they're not fluent yet. But about a third of the kids know enough to navigate a kindergarten conversation. When Morley didn't notice the line was moving, a girl told her to walk, followed by the universal sign for "Way to go, Morey!"

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Morey Belanger (center) with two other students. Belanger family

It's not like the administration is mandating this. There is no sign language curriculum. This is bottom-up kindness. Students motivated by nothing more than their own deep desire to connect with this one little girl.

What they know they learned mostly from posters, books, watching Morey's aide and teaching each other.

"We want her to feel comfortable and safe and be able to kind of make friends with her," one student said. 

Eventually, Morey's parents say their daughter may need more support services. But they believe all she needs now is what she has a here, a loving community.

"To know that people just accept her for how she is, she's just going to succeed because of being at that school," Shannon said.

There are signs of that already.


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  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.