Update 6/21/2013: The Washington Times has posted a corrective note at the beginning of the article about the error and removed the image. Thank you, editor.

So, late last night, this story hit my Facebook feed, with understandable outrage: “N.J. school board bans hearing-impaired girl from using sign language

Only problem is, as I’ve discussed in my Cause for Madness: A Cautionary Tale about hitting “Share” post, you need to fact check things before you run with them.

The story is from 2001!

If you spend even a sliver of time looking online, you’d come across this LIST-SERV archive that contains an article from The Star-Ledger from 4/18/2001. Note: The ABC News article the Washington Times used as a “source” from “April 18” has no year on the article (criminally bad site design, ABC).

A little more searching, also on ABC, you’ll find that April 26, the ban was lifted.

The file photo is wildly inappropriate.

Sure, an adorable girl getting a hearing aid is marginally related to this story, I suppose. Only problem is this photo is of Zahra Baker, a 10 year old girl who was brutally and gruesomely murdered in 2010.


What’s bothering me about this is two-fold. The Washington Times has not adjusted/removed the article, nor issued a retraction. Additionally, it’s already running around FB/Twitter, so any retraction has to be noisy to even cut through the chaff any more. My hope is that this blog post lands high in the SEO rankings so that people find out what a debacle this is and get the facts straight. As the wonderful XKCD put it, someone is wrong on the internet – only people assume it’s a credible source. Evidently not.

2 thoughts on “Washington Times Fails to Fact Check NJ Deaf Girl Signing Ban

  1. I must agree it is embarrassing to post an article and being ticked off about the incident only to find out it’s out dated. Although the article does still have it’s merits.

    A lot of stories on the NJ girl seem to start in 2010 & 2012. ABC News did an article on this girl. I must say the girl in this news article shown here was not the one I’ve seen but been wondering what caused it’s recirculation. I do want to note on the ABC News link just says April no year. The comments were dated 2012.

    I must say I’m kind of surprised it’s the Washington times. They are not normally known for conservative values and this does hit on one of the most recent conservative value topics being talked about today. Sadly this isn’t a one time thing. Just last year a school didn’t want a child named Hunter to use the sign for his name. Why? Because it resembles gun play. I was wondering if the recent popping up of this article was due to the freedom of speech rhetoric as children are the easiest to silence.

    1. The article still raises good discussions, sure, as many other school systems have these kind of foolish things happen.

      The ABC Article does lack a date, which is bizarre for any credible news outlet that is going to put up over a decade of archived stories. What’s also interesting is that if you look at the page source, even if you’re not familiar with html meta tags, you can see this odd bit of text near the top:

      <meta name="DC.date.issued" content="2006-01-07" />
      <meta name="Date" content="2001-04-18" />
      <meta name="Last-Modified" content="2006-01-07 07:13:31" />

      I’m glad the Times edited their update to the original article – it is hard for a correction to travel as far as the misinformation, though. The current superintended of the school system in question and I have been in touch. While it likely has not been fun for them to have this recirculate, I agree with her that it is an interesting lesson for ‘informational literacy’.

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