Kentucky School for the DeafKentucky School for the Deaf

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The Kentucky Asylum for the Tuition of the Deaf and Dumb, later called the Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD), was established in Danville on April 10, 1823. It was the first state-supported school of its kind in the nation and the first school for the deaf west of the Alleghenies. The deaf were a special concern of Gen. Elias Barbee, a Kentucky state senator, whose daughter, Lucy, was deaf. In 1822 Barbee collaborated with Judge John Rowan in writing the legislation authorizing the creation of the school. On December 7 of that year the legislation was signed into law by Gov. John Adair (1820-24). In the first two years the school rented quarters on Main Street, then moved to its present location on South Second Street in Danville.

Until 1870 the Centre College Board of Trustees operated the school, which grew from the first three pupils in 1823 to more than three hundred a century later. From 1870-1960 it was governed by its own board of commissioners, who were appointed by the governor to serve six-year terms (later reduced to four years). Legislation in 1960 placed the jurisdiction of the school with the state Board of Education and Department of Education.

With the help of Henry Clay and others, the school received two federal land grants, in 1826 and 1836. These tracts of land in Florida and Arkansas were eventually sold to finance the construction of school facilities. The school remained open during the Civil War. It charged tuition for deaf persons from outside the commonwealth. In the early years it was thought that the Kentucky school might be able to meet the educational needs of all deaf persons in the South and the West. Pupils from all the southern states except Florida, and from as far away as Montana, attended KSD. Eventually, other states established their own schools. At first, students could attend the school for only three terms. As the ineffectiveness of only three years of schooling became apparent, the school's leadership expanded the maximum length of attendance. State and federal laws now permit KSD to teach deaf students from preschool through high school. Graduates of the school go on to attend college or technical schools or enter the workforce. Many become professionals, and some return to their alma mater to carry on the mission of the school.

Many of the officers and teachers at KSD have had long tenures. George M. McClure was associated with the school for eighty years as both pupil and teacher. The school has had thirteen superintendents since its inception. The Rev. John Rice Kerr, the first superintendent, and John Adamson Jacobs, the third superintendent, are credited with nurturing the school from its infancy. Jacobs began his work in 1825, became superintendent in 1835, and held that office until his death in 1869.

Source: Hudson, John W., Jr. "Kentucky School for the Deaf." The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington, Ky. : University Press of Kentucky, 1992

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