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Dear ISD Student and Families:

Welcome to all students and families as the Indiana School for the Deaf (ISD) begins another educational year with programs and events for students. ISD encourages a philosophy of bilingual education and strives to demonstrate mutual respect for all people. 

The ISD Administrative Team has developed five statements so the staff can aspire to providing topnotch education to students:


1. All programs and services will be student centered.

2. A bilingual-multi-cultural environment where cultures and languages are mutually respected and encouraged with high expectations.

3. Promote a family friendly environment and a positive customer service attitude.

4. A qualified, proactive staff that creates a learning environment that challenges students to achieve their highest potential.

5. An empowered community that interacts and provides leadership focusing on the best interest of the students.


We look forward to educating the Deaf and Hard of Hearing students at ISD and know that the Student – Family Handbook will assist in understanding ISD better.


Best wishes to everyone for an enriched and beneficial school year! Sincerely,


Dr. David Geeslin Superintendent

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Indiana School for the Deaf History
William Willard

William Willard's legacy - Indiana School for the Deaf - still thrives.

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In February of 1843, the state of Indiana, even though nearly bankrupt, recognized its responsibility to educate its Deaf residents by levying a tax of two mills (1/1000) on each one hundred dollars worth of property. Money generated from this tax was appropriated for a school for Deaf children. The state also rewarded the efforts of James McLean, a Deaf man from New York, with a payment of $200 in recognition of his attempt to establish a school in Parke County, Indiana. While his efforts lasted only a year, they served to draw the attention of the General Assembly to the need for education of Deaf children in Indiana.

William Willard, a Deaf man teaching at the Ohio Deaf School in Columbus, traveled to Indianapolis in May of 1843 and presented himself with his credentials to the General Assembly proposing the establishment of a school for Deaf children in Indiana. On May 30, 1843, the General Assembly enacted a resolution endorsing William Willard’s interested in opening a Deaf school.

William, a graduate of the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, had been a student of the great Laurent Clerc, “the Father of Deaf Education” in America. His wife, Eliza Young Willard, was an alumnus of the Ohio Deaf School. Together, they advertised throughout the state of Indiana for potential students. Willard traveled the state on horseback that summer demonstrating his methods and recruiting students for the school. On October 1, 1843, the Willard School opened with twelve pupils. William and Eliza both served as instructors with Willard being responsible for boys’ and his wife for the girls’ general care.


The school prospered and in December of that same year, the state passed a law that established the Willard School as a state institution. Willard was appointed principal of this school which, after a law passed in January 1846, became the sixth state school and the first state school in the nation to provide free education to Deaf children. In 1850, after being in three different rented quarters in the downtown area of Indianapolis, the state built a spacious new school east of the city on the National Road.


The Indiana Deaf School, at that time named the Indiana Asylum for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, remained at this location on the corner of State and Washington Streets for many years. Willard continued as a teacher at the school until his retirement in 1860. Willard and family resided across the street from the school in a Greek Revival house that he had built that was considered one of the finest homes in Indianapolis. After much wear and decay on the State Street campus, the state approved the construction of a new campus for the school on East 42nd Street on the north side of Indianapolis.


Located on 80 acres in a beautiful campus setting, the school’s main buildings are registered as historic landmarks. The Indiana Deaf School is a fully accredited school. It is recognized nationally for its leadership in education, its advocacy of American Sign Language and as the first state Deaf school to adopt a Bilingual philosophy.

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Indiana School for the Deaf
Student-Family Handbook
Administrative Statement
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